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No more waiting. 


No more hoping. 

No more letting ourselves be distracted, unnerved. 

Break and enter. 

Put untruth back in its place. 

Believe in what we feel. 

Act accordingly. 

Force our way into the present. 

Try. Fail this time. Try again. Fail better. 

Persist. Attack. Build. 

Go down one’s road. 

Win perhaps. 

In any case, overcome. 

Live, therefore. 

Now... 

4 




„.WILL EDITIONS • ill-will-editions.tumblr. 


NOW 


THE INVISIBLE COMMITTEE 


NOW 


THE INVISIBLE COMMITTEE 


The Invisible Committee are an anonymous fragment of the Imaginary Party. 
First published as Maintenant in May, 2017. 

Translated by Robert Hurley. 

Zine layout by III Will Editions, November 2017. 

Set in Baskerville, Oswald, and Mrs Eaves. 


ill-will-editions.tumblr.com 

illwill@riseup.net 


CONTENTS 


TOMORROW IS CANCELLED 

FIFTY SHADES OF BREAKAGE 

DEATH TO POLITICS 

LET'S DESTITUTE THE 
WORLD 

END OF WORK, MAGICAL LIFE 
EVERYONE HATES THE POLICE 


FOR THE ONES TO COME 




TOMORROW IS CANCELLED 



All the reasons for making a revolution are there. Not one is lacking. 
The shipwreck of politics, the arrogance of the powerful, the reign 
of falsehood, the vulgarity of the wealthy, the cataclysms of industry, 
galloping misery, naked exploitation, ecological apocalypse—we are 
spared nothing, not even being informed about it all. “Climate: 2016 
breaks a heat record,” Le Monde announces, the same as almost every 
year now. All the reasons are there together, but it’not reasons that make 
revolutions, it’s bodies. And the bodies are in front of screens. 

One can watch a presidential election sink like a stone. The 
transformation of “the most important moment in French political life” 
into a big trashing fest only makes the soap opera more captivating. 
One couldn’t imagine Koh-Lanta with such characters, such dizzying plot 
twists, such cruel tests, or so general a humiliation. The spectacle of politics 
lives on as the spectacle of its decomposition. Disbelief goes nicely with the 
filthy landscape. The National Front, that political negation of politics, 


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NOW 


that negation of politics on the terrain of politics , logically occupies the 
“center” of this chessboard of smoking ruins. The human passengers, 
spellbound, are watching their shipwreck like a first-rate show. They are 
so enthralled that they don’t feel the water that’s already bathing their 
legs. In the end, they’ll transform everything into a buoy. The drowning 
are known for that, for trying to turn everything they touch into a life 
preserver. 

This world no longer needs explaining, critiquing, denouncing. 
We live enveloped in a fog of commentaries and commentaries on 
commentaries, of critiques and critiques of critiques of critiques, of 
revelations that don’t trigger anything, other than revelations about the 
revelations. And this fog is taking away any purchase we might have on 
the world. There’s nothing to criticize in Donald Trump. As to the worst 
that can be said about him, he’s already absorbed, incorporated it. He 
embodies it. He displays on a gold chain all the complaints that people 
have ever lodged against him. He is his own caricature, and he’s proud 
of it. Even the creators of South Park are throwing in the towel: “Its very 
complicated now that satire has become reality. We really tried to laugh 
about what is going on but it wasn’t possible to maintain the rhythm. 
What was happening was much funnier that what could be imagined. 
So we decided to let it go, to let them do their comedy, and we’ll do 
ours.” We live in a world that has established itself beyond any justification. 
Here, criticism doesn’t work, any more than satire does. Neither one has 
any impact. To limit oneself to denouncing discriminations, oppressions, 
and injustices, and expect to harvest the fruits of that is to get one’s 
epochs wrong. Leftists who think they can make something happen by 
lifting the lever of bad conscience are sadly mistaken. They can go and 
scratch their scabs in public and air their grievances hoping to arouse 
sympathy as much as they like; they’ll only give rise to contempt and the 
desire to destroy them. “Victim” has become an insult in every part of 
the world. 

There is a social use of language. No one still believes in it. Its 
exchange value has fallen to zero. Hence this inflationist bubble of idle 
talk. Everything social is mendacious, and everyone knows that now. 
It’s no longer just the governing authorities, the publicists and public 
personalities who “do communication,” it’s every self-entrepreneur that 
this society wants to turn us into who practices the art of “public relations.” 
Having become an instrument of communication, language is no longer 


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TOMORROW IS CANCELLED 


its own reality but a tool for operating on the real, for obtaining effects in 
accordance with more or less conscious strategies. Words are no longer 
put into circulation except in order to distort things. Everything sails 
under false flags. This usurpation has become universal. One doesn’t 
shrink from any paradox. The state of emergency is the rule of law. War 
is made in the name of peace. The bosses “offer jobs.” The surveillance 
cameras are “video-protection devices.” The executioners complain that 
they’re being persecuted. The traitors profess their sincerity and their 
allegiance. The mediocre are everywhere cited as examples. There is 
actual practice on the one hand, and on the other, discourse, which is its 
relentless counterpoint, the perversion of every concept, the universal 
deception of oneself and of others. In all quarters it’s only a question of 
preserving or extending one’s interests. In return, the world is filling up 
with silent people. Certain ones of these explode into crazy acts of a sort 
that we’ve seen at briefer and briefer intervals. What is surprising about 
this? We should stop saying, “Young people don’t believe in anything 
anymore.” And say instead: “Damn! They’re not swallowing our lies 
anymore.” No longer say, “Young people are nihilistic,” but “My lord, if 
this continues they’re going to survive the collapse of our world.” 

The exchange value of language has fallen to zero, and yet we 
go on writing. It’s because there is another use of language. One can 
talk about life, and one can talk from the standpoint of Ife. One can talk 
about conflicts, and one can talk from the midst of conflict. It’s not the same 
language, or the same style. It’s not the same idea of truth either. There 
is a “courage of truth” that consists in taking shelter behind the objective 
neutrality of “facts.” There is a different one that considers that speech 
which doesn’t commit one to anything, doesn’t stand on its own, doesn’t 
risk its position, doesn’t cost anything, is not worth very much. The 
whole critique of finance capitalism cuts a pale figure next to a shattered 
bank window tagged with “Here. These are your premiums!” It’s not 
through ignorance that “young people” appropriate rappers’ punch 
lines for their political slogans instead of philosophers’ maxims. And it’s 
out of decency that they don’t take up the shouts of “We won’t give an 
inch!” by militants who are about to relinquish everything. It’s because 
the latter are talking about the world, and the former are talking from 
within a world. 

The real lie is not the one we tell others but the one we tell ourselves. 
The first lie is relatively exceptional in comparison with the second. 


7 


NOW 


The big lie is refusing to see certain things that one does see and refusing 
to see them just as one sees them. The real lie is all the screens, all the 
images, all the explanations that are allowed to stand between oneself 
and the world. It’s how we regularly dismiss our own perceptions. So 
much so that where it’s not a question of truth, it won’t be a question 
of anything. There will be nothing. Nothing but this planetary insane 
asylum. Truth is not something one would strive towards, but a frank 
relation to what is there. It is a “problem” only for those who already see 
life as a problem. It’s not something one professes but a way of being in 
the world. It is not held, therefore, nor accumulated. It manifests itself in 
a situation and from moment to moment. Whoever senses the falseness 
of a being, the noxious character of a representation, or the forces that 
move beneath a play of images releases any grip these might have had. 
Truth is a complete presence to oneself and to the world, a vital contact 
with the real, an acute perception of the givens of existence. In a world 
where everyone play-acts, where everyone puts on a performance, 
where one communicates all the more as nothing really is said, the very 
word “truth” produces a chill or is greeted with annoyance or sniggers. 
Everything sociable that this epoch contains has become so dependent 
on the crutches of untruth that it can’t do without them. “Proclaiming 
the truth” is not at all recommended. Speaking truth to people who 
can’t take even tiny doses of it will only expose you to their vengeance. 
In what follows we don’t claim in any instance to convey “the truth” but 
rather the perception we have of the world, what we care about, what 
keeps us awake and alive. The common opinion must be rejected: truths 
are multiple, but untruth is one, because it is universally arrayed against 
the slightest truth that surfaces. 

All year long we’re pummelcd with words about the thousand 
threats that surround us—terrorists, migrants, endocrine disruptors, 
fascism, unemployment. In this way the unshakeable routine of capitalist 
normality is perpetuated—against a background of a thousand failed 
conspiracies, a hundred averted catastrophes. As to the pallid anxiety 
which they try, day after day, to implant in our heads, by way of armed 
military patrols, breaking news, and governmental announcements, 
one has to credit riots with the paradoxical virtue of freeing us from 
it. This is something that the lovers of those funeral processions called 
“demonstrations,” all those who taste, over a glass of rouge, the bitter 
enjoyment of always being defeated, all those who give out a flatulent 

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TOMORROW IS CANCELLED 


“Or else it’s going to blow up!” before they prudently climb back into 
their bus, cannot understand. In a street confrontation, the enemy has 
a well-defined face, whether he’s in civilian clothes or in armor. He 
has methods that are largely known. He has a name and a function. 
In fact, he’s a “civil servant,” as he soberly declares. The friend, too, 
has gestures, movements, and an appearance that are recognizable. In 
the riot there is an incandescent presence to oneself and to others, a 
lucid fraternity which the Republic is quite incapable of generating. The 
organized riot is capable of producing what this society cannot create: 
lively and irreversible bonds. Those who dwell on images of violence 
miss everything that’s involved in the fact of taking the risk together of 
breaking, of tagging, of confronting the cops. One never comes out of 
one’s first riot unchanged. It’s this positivity of the riot that the spectators 
prefer not to see and that frightens them more deeply than the damage, 
the charges and counter-charges. In the riot there is a production and 
affirmation of friendships , a focused configuration of the world, clear 
possibilities of action, means close at hand. The situation has a form 
and one can move within it. The risks are sharply defined, unlike those 
nebulous “risks” that the governing authorities like to hang over our 
existences. The riot is desirable as a moment of truth. It is a momentary 
suspension of the confusion. In the tear gas, things are curiously clear 
and the real is finally legible. It’s difficult then not to see who is who. 
Speaking of the insurrectionary day of July 15, 1927 in Vienna, Elias 
Canetti said: “It’s the closest thing to a revolution that I have experienced. 
Hundreds of pages would not be enough for describing all that I saw.” 
He drew from that day the inspiration for his masterwork, Crowds and 
Power. The riot is formative by virtue of what it makes visible. 

In the Royal Navy there was this old toast, “Confusion to our 
enemies!” Confusion has a strategic value. It is not a chance phenomenon. 
It scatters purposes and prevents them from converging again. It has the 
ashy taste of defeat, when the battle has not taken place, and probably 
will never take place. All the recent attacks in France were thus followed 
by a train of confusion, which opportunely increased the governmental 
discourse about them. Those who claim them, and those who call 
for war against those who claim these attacks, all have an interest in 
our confusion. As for those who carry them out, they are very often 
children—the children of confusion. 


9 


NOW 


This world that talks so much has nothing to say: it is bereft of 
positive statements. Perhaps it believed it could make itself immune to 
attack in this way. More than anything else, however, it placed itself at 
the mercy of any serious affirmation. A world whose positivity is built on 
so much devastation deserves to have what is life-affirming take the form 
initially of wrecking, breaking, rioting. They always try to portray us as 
desperate individuals, on the grounds that we act, we build, we attack 
without hope. Hope. Now there’s at least one disease this civilization has 
not infected us with. We’re not despairing for all that. No one has ever 
acted out of hope. Hope is a form of waiting, with the refusal to see 
what is there, with the fear of breaking into the present—in short, with 
the fear of living. To hope is to declare oneself in advance to be without 
any hold on that from which something is expected nonetheless. It’s to 
remove oneself from the process so as to avoid any connection with its 
outcome. It’s wanting things to be different without embracing the means 
for this to come about. It’s a kind of cowardice. One has to know what 
to commit to and then commit to it. Even if it means making enemies. 
Or making friends. Once we know what we want, we’re no longer 
alone, the world repopulates. Everywhere there are allies, closenesses, 
and an infinite gradation of possible friendships. Nothing is close for 
someone who floats. Hope, that very slight but constant impetus toward 
tomorrow that is communicated to us day by day, is the best agent of 
the maintenance of order. We’re daily informed of problems we can do 
nothing about, but to which there will surely be solutions tomorrow. The 
whole oppressive feeling of powerlessness that this social organization 
cultivates in everyone is only an immense pedagogy of waiting. It’s an 
avoidance of now. But there isn’t, there’s never been, and there never 
will be anything but now. And even if the past can act upon the now, 
this is because it has itself never been anything but a now. Just as our 
tomorrow will be. The only way to understand something in the past 
is to understand that it too used to be a now. It’s to feel the faint breath 
of the air in which the human beings of yesterday lived their lives. If 
we are so much inclined to flee from now, it’s because now is the time 
of decision. It’s the locus of the “I accept” or the “I refuse,” of “I’ll 
pass on that” or “I’ll go with that.” It’s the locus of the logical act that 
immediately follows the perception. It is the present, and hence the locus 
of presence. It is the moment, endlessly renewed, of the taking of sides. 
Thinking in distant terms is always more comfortable. “In the end,” 


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TOMORROW IS CANCELLED 


things will change; “in the end,” beings will be transfigured. Meanwhile, 
let’s go on this way, let’s remain what we are. A mind that thinks in 
terms of the future is incapable of acting in the present. It doesn’t seek 
transformation; it avoids it. The current disaster is like a monstrous 
accumulation of all the deferrals of the past, to which are added those of 
each day and each moment, in a continuous time slide. But life is always 
decided now, and now, and now. 

Everyone can see that this civilization is like a train rolling toward 
the abyss, and picking up speed. The faster it goes, the more one hears 
the hysterical cheers of the boozers in the discotheque car. You have to 
listen carefully to make out the paralyzed silence of the rational minds 
that no longer understand anything, that of the worriers who bite their 
nails, and the accent of false calm in the exclamations of the card players 
who wait. Inwardly, many people have chosen to leap off the train, but 
they hesitate on the footboard. They’re still restrained by so many things. 
They feel held back because they’ve made the choice, but the decision is 
lacking. Decision is what traces in the present the manner and possibility 
of acting, of making a leap that is not into the void. We mean the decision 
to desert, to desert the ranks, to organize, to undertake a secession, be it 
imperceptibly, but in any case, now. 

The epoch belongs to the determined. 


11 



FIFTY SHADES OF BREAKAGE 



“Nothing’s right anymore,” say the poor losers. “Yes, the world’s 
in a bad state,” says the conventional wisdom. We say rather that 
the world is fragmenting. We were promised a new world order, but it’s 
the opposite that’s occurring. A planetary generalization of liberal 
democracy was announced but what is generalizing instead are “the 
electoral insurrections” against it and its hypocrisy, as the liberals bitterly 
complain. Zone after zone, the fragmentation of the world continues, 
unceremoniously and without interruption. And this is not just an affair 
of geopolitics. It’s in every domain that the world is fragmenting, it’s 
in every domain that unity has become problematic. Nowadays there 


13 





NOW 


is no more unity in “society” than there is in science. The wage-work 
system is breaking up into niches, exceptions, dispensatory conditions. 
The idea of a “precariat” conveniently hides the fact that there is simply 
no longer a shared experience of work, even precarious work. With 
the consequence that there can no longer be a shared experience of 
its stoppage either, and the old myth of the general strike must be put 
on the shelf of useless accessories. In like manner, Western medicine 
has been reduced to tinkering with techniques that break its doctrinal 
unity into pieces, such as acupuncture, hypnosis, or magnetism. 
Politically, beyond the usual parliamentary messing around, there’s no 
more majority for anything. During the conflict in the spring of 2016, 
precipitated by the loi Travail, the most astute journalistic commentary 
noted that two minorities, a governmental minority and a minority of 
demonstrators, were clashing in front of a population of spectators. 
Our very ego-self appears as a more and more complex, less and less 
coherent puzzle, so that to make it hold together, in addition to pills and 
therapy sessions, algorithms are necessary now. It’s pure irony that the 
word “wall” is used to describe the solid stream of images, information, 
and commentary by which Facebook attempts to give a shape to the self. 
The contemporary experience of life in a world composed of circulation, 
telecommunications, networks, a welter of real-time information and 
images trying to capture our attention, is fundamentally discontinuous. 
On a completely different scale, the particular interests of the elite are 
becoming more and more difficult to posit as the “general interest.” One 
only has to see how hard it is for states to implement their infrastructure 
projects, from the Susa Valley to Standing Rock, to realize that things 
aren’t working anymore. The fact that now they have to be ready to bring the 
army and its special units into the national territory to protect building 
sites of any importance shows rather clearly that these projects are seen 
for the mafia-type operations that they are. 

The unity of the Republic, that of science, that of the personality, 
that of the national territory, or that of “culture” have never been 
anything but fictions. But they were effective. What is certain is that 
the illusion of unity can no longer do its work of fooling people, of bringing 
them into line, of disciplining them. In every domain, hegemony 
is dead and the singularities are becoming wild: they bear their own 
meaning in themselves, no longer expecting it from a general order. The 
petty supervisory voice that allowed anyone with a bit of authority to 


14 


FIFTY SHADES OF BREAKAGE 


ventrilocate for others, to judge, classify, hierarchize, moralize, to tell 
everyone what they need to do and how they need to be, has become 
inaudible. All the “necd-to’s” are lying on the ground. The militant who 
knows what must be done, the professor who knows what you need to 
think, the politician who will tell you what is needed for the country, 
speak in the desert. As things stand, nothing can match the singular 
experience where it exists. One rediscovers that opening oneself to the 
world doesn’t mean opening oneself to the four corners of the planet, 
that the world is there where we are. Opening ourselves to the world is 
opening ourselves to its presence here and now. Each fragment carries its 
own possibility of perfection. If “the world” is to be saved this will be in 
each of its fragments. As for the totality, it can only be managed. 

The epoch takes amazing shortcuts. Real democracy is buried 
where it was born two thousand five hundred years before with the 
way in which Alexis Tsipras, scarcely elected, got no rest until he had 
negotiated its capitulation. One can read on its tombstone, ironically 
speaking, these words of the German Minister of Finance, Wolfgang 
Schauble: “We can’t let elections change anything whatsoever.” But 
the most striking thing is that the geopolitical epicenter of the world’s 
fragmentation is precisely the place where its unification began under the 
name “civilization,” five thousand years ago: Mesopotamia. If a certain 
geopolitical chaos seems to be taking hold of the world, it’s in Iraq and 
Syria that this is most dramatically demonstrated, that is, in the exact 
location where civilization’s general setting in order began. Writing, 
accounting, History, royaljustice, parliament, integrated farming, science, 
measurement, political religion, palace intrigues and pastoral power— 
this whole way of claiming to govern “for the good of the subjects,” 
for the sake of the flock and its well-being— everything that can be 
lumped into what we still call “civilization” was already, three thousand 
years before Jesus Christ, the distinguishing mark of the kingdoms of 
Akkad and Sumer. Of course there will be attempts at cobbling together 
a new denominational Iraqi state. Of course the international interests 
will end up mounting harebrained operations aimed at state building 
in Syria. But in Syria as in Iraq, state-directed humanity is dead. The 
intensity of the conflicts has risen too high for an honest reconciliation 
to still be possible. The counter-insurrectionary war that the regime of 
Bashar Al-Assad has conducted against his population, with the support 
that we’re aware of, has reached such extremes that no negotiations 


15 


NOW 


will ever again lead to anything like a “new Syrian state” worthy of 
the name. And no attempt at people-shaping—the bloody putting into 
practice of Brecht’s ironic poem after the workers’ uprising of 1953 
against the new Soviet regime in East Germany: “The people through 
its own fault/ Has lost the confidence of the government/ And only by 
redoubling its efforts/ Can it win it back/Would it not be easier then/ 
For the government to dissolve the people and elect a new one?”—will 
have any positive effect; the ghosts of the dead won’t let themselves be 
subdued by barrels of TNT. No one who’s given some thought to what 
the European states were like in the time of their “splendor” can look at 
what still goes by the name of “state” these days and see anything other 
than failures. Compared to the transnational powers, the states can no 
longer maintain themselves except in the form of holograms. The Greek 
state is no longer anything more than a conveyor of instructions it has 
no say in. The British state is reduced to walking the tightrope with 
Brexit. The Mexican state no longer controls anything. The Italian, 
Spanish, or Brazilian states no longer appear to have any activity beyond 
surviving the continuous avalanches of scandal. Whether on the pretext 
of “reform” or by fits of “modernization,” the present-day capitalist 
states are engaging in an exercise of methodical self-dismantling. Not to 
mention the “separatist temptations” that are multiplying across Europe. 
It’s not hard to discern, behind the attempts at authoritarian restoration 
in so many of the world’s countries a form of civil war that will no longer 
end. Whether in the name of the war against “terrorism,” “drugs,” or 
“poverty,” the states are coming apart at the seams. The facades remain, 
but they only serve to mask a pile of rubble. The global disorder now 
exceeds any capacity to restore order. As an ancient Chinese sage put it: 
“When order reigns in the world, a fool can disturb it by himself alone; 
when chaos takes hold of it, a wise man cannot bring back the order by 
himself alone.” 

We are the contemporaries of a prodigious reversal of the process 
of civilization into a process of fragmentation. The more civilization 
aspires to a universal completion, the more it implodes at its foundation. 
The more this world aims for unification, the more it fragments. When 
did it shift imperceptibly on its axis? Was it the world coup that followed 
the attacks of September 11? The “financial crisis” of 2008? The failure 
of the Copenhagen summit on climate change in 2009? What is sure is 
that that summit marked a point of irreversibility in this shift. The cause 


16 


FIFTY SHADES OF BREAKAGE 


of the atmosphere and the planet offered civilization the ideal pretext 
for its completion. In the name of the species and its salvation, in the 
name of the planetary totality, in the name of terrestrial Unity one was 
going to be able to govern every behavior of each one of the Earths 
inhabitants and every one of the entities that it accommodates on its 
surface. The presiding authorities were within an inch of proclaiming 
the universal and ecological imperium mundi. This was “in the interest 
of all.” The majority of the human and natural milieus, customs, and 
forms of life, the telluric character of every existence, all that would have 
to yield before the necessity of uniting the human species, which one was 
finally going to manage from who knows what directorate. This was the 
logical outcome of the process of unification that has always animated 
“the great adventure of humanity” since a little band of Sapiens escaped 
from the Rift Valley. Up till then, one hoped that the “responsible parties” 
would come to a sensible agreement, that the “responsible parties,” in 
a word, would be responsible. And surprise! What actually happened at 
Copenhagen is that nothing happened. And that is why the whole world 
has forgotten it. No emperor, even of the collegial sort. No decision 
by the spokespersons of the Species. Since then, with the help of the 
“economic crisis,” the drive toward unification has reversed into a global 
everyone-for-themselves. Seeing that there will be no common salvation, 
everyone will have to achieve their salvation on their own, on whatever 
scale, or abandon every idea of salvation. And attempt to lose oneself 
in technologies, profits, parties, drugs, and heart-breakers, with anxiety 
pegged to one’s soul. 

The dismantling of all political unity is inducing an evident panic 
in our contemporaries. The omnipresence of the question of “national 
identity” in the public debate attests to this. “La France,” a world- 
class exemplar of the modern state, is having an especially hard time 
accepting its consignment to the junkyard. It’s obviously because 
“feeling French” has never made so little sense that what we have in the 
way of ambitious politicians are reduced to embroidering endlessly on 
“the national identity.” And since, despite those glorious “1500 years 
of History” which they keep harping on, no one seems to have a clear 
idea what “being French” might mean, they fall back on the basics: the 
wine and the great men, the sidewalk terraces and the police, when it’s 
not quite simply the Ancien Regime and the Christian roots. Yellowed 
figures of a national unity for ninth-grade manuals. 


17 


NOW 


All that is left of unity is nostalgia, but it speaks more and more 
loudly. Candidates present themselves as wanting to restore the national 
greatness, to “Make America Great Again” or “set France back in 
order.” At the same time, when one is wistful for French Algeria, is 
there anything one can’t be nostalgic about? Everywhere, they promise 
therefore to reconstruct the national unity by force. But the more they 
“divide” by going on about the “feeling of belonging,” the more the 
certainty spreads of not being part of the whole they have in mind. To 
mobilize panic in order to restore order is to miss what panic contains 
that is essentially dispersive. The process of general fragmentation is so 
unstoppable that all the brutality that will be used in order to recompose 
the lost unity will only end up accelerating it, deepening it and making 
it more irreversible. When there’s no longer a shared experience, apart 
from that of coming together again in front of the screens, one can 
very well create brief moments of national communion after attacks by 
deploying a maudlin, false, and hollow sentimentality, one can decree all 
sorts of “wars against terrorism,” one can promise to take back control 
of all the “zones of unlawfulness,” but all this will remain a BFM-TV 
newsflash at the back of a kebab house, and with the sound turned off. 
This kind of nonsense is like medications: for them to stay effective, it’s 
always necessary to increase the dose, until the final neurasthenia sets 
in. Those who don’t mind the prospect of finishing their existence in 
a cramped and super-militarized citadel, be it as great as “La France,” 
while all around the waters are rising, carrying the bodies of the unlucky, 
may very well declare those who displease them to be “traitors to the 
Nation.” In their barkings, one only hears their powerlessness. In the 
long run, extermination is not a solution. 

We mustn’t be disheartened by the state of degradation of the 
debate in the public sphere. If they vociferate so loudly it’s because no 
one is listening anymore. What is really occurring, under the surface, 
is that everything is pluralizing, everything is localizing, everything is 
revealing itself to be situated, everything is fleeing. It’s not only that the 
people are lacking, that they are playing the role of absent subscribers, 
that they don’t give any news, that they are lying to the pollsters, it’s that 
they have already packed up and left, in many unsuspected directions. 
They’re not simply abstentionist, hanging back, not to be found: they 
are in flight, even if their flight is inner or immobile. They are already 
elsewhere. And it won’t be the great bush-beaters of the extreme left, 


18 


FIFTY SHADES OF BREAKAGE 


the Third Republic-type of socialist senators taking themselves for 
Castro, a la Melenchon, who will bring people back to the fold. What 
is called “populism” is not just the blatant symptom of the people’s 
disappearance, it’s a desperate attempt to hold on to what’s left of it 
that’s distressed and disoriented. As soon as a real political situation 
presents itself, like the conflict of the spring of 2016, what manifests 
itself in a diffuse way is all the shared intelligence, sensitivity, and 
determination which the public hubbub sought to cover over. The event 
constituted by the appearance, in the conflict, of the “cortege de tete” has 
shown this rather clearly. Given that the social body is taking on water 
from all sides, including the old union framework, it was obvious to 
every demonstrator who was still alive that the feet-dragging marches 
were a form of pacification through protest. Thus from demonstration 
to demonstration one saw at the head of the processions all those who 
aim to desert the social cadaver to avoid contracting its little death. It 
started with the high-school students. Then all sorts of young and not 
so young demonstrators, militants, and unorganized elements, swelled 
the ranks. To top it off, during the 14th of June demonstration, entire 
union sections, including the longshoremen of Le Havre, joined an out- 
of-control head contingent of 10,000 persons. It would be a mistake 
to see the taking over of the head of these demonstrations as a kind 
of historical revenge by “anarchists,” “autonomists,” or the other usual 
suspects at the end of demonstrations, who traditionally find themselves 
at the tail of marches, engaging in ritual skirmishes. What happened 
there, as if naturally, was that a certain number of deserters created a 
political space in which to make something out of their heterogeneity, 
a space that was insufficiently organized certainly, but rejoinablc and 
for the duration of a spring, truly existing. The cortege de tete came to be 
a kind of receptacle of the general fragmentation. As if, by losing all 
its power of aggregation, this “society” liberated from all quarters little 
autonomous kernels—territorially, sectorially, or politically situated— 
and for once these kernels found a way to group together. If the cortege 
de tete succeeded finally in magnetizing a significant part of those 
combating the world of the loi Travail this is not because all those people 
had suddenly become “autonomous”—the heterogeneous character of 
its components argues against that—it’s because, in the situation, it had 
the benefit of a presence, a vitality, and a truthfulness that were lacking 
in the rest. 


19 


NOW 


The cortege de tete was so clearly not a subject detachable from the rest 
of the demonstration but rather a gesture , that the police never managed 
to isolate it, as they regularly tried to do. To put an end to the scandal of 
its existence, to reestablish the traditional image of the union march with 
the bosses of the different labor confederations at its head, to neutralize 
this cortege systematically composed of young hooded ones who defy 
the police, of older ones who support them or free workers who break 
through the lines of riot police, it was necessary finally to kettle the whole 
demonstration. So at the end of June there was the humiliating scene 
around the basin of the Arsenal, which was surrounded by a formidable 
police presence—a nice demoralization maneuver arranged jointly 
by the labor unions and the government. That day UHumanite would 
run a front page story on the remarkable “victory” the demonstration 
represented—it’s a tradition among Stalinists to cover their retreats with 
litanies of triumph. The long French spring of 2016 established this 
evident fact: the riot, the blockade, and the occupation form the basic 
political grammar of the epoch. 

“Kettling” does not simply constitute a technique of psychological 
warfare which the French order belatedly imported from England. 
Kettling is a dialectical image of current political power. It’s the figure 
of a despised, reviled power that no longer does anything but keep the 
population in its nets. If it’s the figure of a power that no longer promises 
anything, and has no other activity than locking all the exits. A power that 
no one supports anymore in a positive way, that everyone tries to flee 
as best they can, and that has no other perspective than to keep in its 
confining bosom all that is on the verge of escaping it. The figure of 
kettling is dialectical in that what it is designed to confine, it also brings 
together. It is a site where meet-ups take place between those who are 
trying to desert. Novel chants, full of irony, are invented there. A shared 
experience develops within its enclosure. The police apparatus is not 
equipped to contain the vertical escape that occurs in the form of tags 
that will soon embellish every wall, every bus shelter, every business. And 
that give evidence that the mind remains free even when the bodies are 
held captive. “Victory through chaos,” “In ashes, all becomes possible,” 
“France, its wine, its revolutions,” “Homage to the families of the 
broken windows,” “Kiss kiss bank bank,” “I think, therefore I break”: 
since 1968, the walls had not seen such a freedom of spirit. “From here, 
from this country where it’s hard for us to breathe an air that is more and 


20 


FIFTY SHADES OF BREAKAGE 


more rarefied, where each day we feel more like foreigners, there could 
only come this fatigue that eroded us with emptiness, with imposture. 
For lack of anything better, we paid each other in words, the adventure 
was literary, the commitment was platonic. As for tomorrows revolution, 
a possible revolution, who among us still believed in it?” This is how 
Pierre Peuchmaurd, in Plus vivant que jamais, describes the atmosphere 
that May 1968 swept away. One of the most remarkable aspects of the 
fragmentation that’s underway is that it affects the very thing that was 
thought to ensure the maintenance of social unity: the Law. With the 
exceptional antiterrorist legislation, the gutting of the labor laws, the 
increasing specialization of jurisdictions and courts of prosecution, the 
Law no longer exists. Take criminal law. On the pretext of antiterrorism 
and fighting “organized criminality,” what has taken shape from year 
to year is the constitution of two distinct laws: a law for “citizens” and 
a “penal law of the enemy.” It was a German jurist, appreciated by 
the South American dictatorships in their time, who theorized it. His 
name is Gunther Jacobs. Concerning the riffraff, the radical opponents, 
the “thugs,” the “terrorists,” the “anarchists,” in short: all those who 
don’t have enough respect for the democratic order in force and pose 
a “danger” to “the normative structure of society,” Gunther Jacobs 
notes that, more and more, a special treatment is reserved for them 
that is in derogation of normal criminal law, to the point of no longer 
respecting their constitutional rights. Is it not logical, in a sense, to treat 
as enemies those who behave as “enemies of society”? Aren’t they in 
the business of “excluding themselves from the law”? And so for them 
shouldn’t one recognize the existence of a “penal law of the enemy” that 
consists precisely in the complete absence of any law? For example, this 
is what is openly practiced in the Philippines by its president Duterte, 
who measures the effectiveness of his government, in its “war against 
drugs,” by the number of corpses of “dealers” delivered to the morgue, 
which were “produced” by death squads or ordinary citizens. At the time 
of our writing, the count exceeds 7,000 deaths. That we’re still talking 
about a form of law is attested by the questions of the associations of 
jurists who wonder if in this instance one might be leaving the “rule of 
law.” The “penal law of the enemy” is the end of criminal law. So it’s 
not exactly a trifle. The trick here is to make people believe that it is 
applied to a previously defined criminal population when its rather the 
opposite that occurs: a person is declared an “enemy” after the fact, 


21 


NOW 


after being phone-tapped, arrested, locked up, molested, ransomed, 
tortured, and finally killed. A bit like when the cops press charges for 
“contempt and obstruction” against those they’ve just beaten up a little 
too conspicuously. 

As paradoxical as this assertion may appear, were living in the time of 
abolition of the Law. The metastatic proliferation of laws is just one aspect 
of this abolition. If every law had not become insignificant in the rococo 
edifice of contemporary law, would it be necessary to produce so many 
of them? Would it be necessary to react to every other minor news event 
by enacting a new piece of legislation? The object of the major bills of 
the past few years in France pretty much boils down to the abolition 
of laws that were in force, and a gradual dismantling of all juridical 
safeguards. So much so that Law, which was meant to protect persons 
and things faced with the vagaries of the world, has instead become 
something that adds to their insecurity. A distinctive trait of the major 
contemporary laws is that they place this or that institution or power 
above the laws. The Intelligence Act eliminated every recourse for dealing 
with the intelligence services. The loi Macron, which was not able to 
establish “business secrecy,” is only called a “law” by virtue of a strange 
Newspeak: it consisted rather in undoing a whole set of guarantees 
enjoyed by employees—relating to Sunday work, layoffs or brings, and 
the regulated professions. The loi Travail itself was only a continuation 
of this movement that had started so well: what is the famous “inversion 
of the hierarchy of norms” but precisely the replacement of any general 
legal framework by the state of exception of each corporation? If it was 
so natural for a social democratic government inspired by the extreme 
right to declare a state of exception after the attacks of November 2015, 
this was because the state of exception already reigned in the form of the 
Law. 

Accepting to see the world’s fragmentation even in the law is not an 
easy thing. In France we’ve inherited nearly a millennium of a “rule of 
justice”—the good king Saint-Louis who meted out justice under the 
oak tree, etcetera. At bottom, the blackmail that keeps renewing the 
conditions of our submission is this: either the State, rights, the Law, 
the police, the justice system—or civil war, vengeance, anarchy, and 
celebration. This conviction, this justicialism, this statism, permeates the 
whole set of politically acceptable and audible sensibilities across the 
board, from the extreme left to the extreme right. Indeed, it’s in line with 


22 


FIFTY SHADES OF BREAKAGE 


this fixed axis that the conversion of a large portion of the workers’ vote 
into a vote for the National Front occurred without any major existential 
crisis for those concerned. This is also what explains all the indignant 
reactions to the cascades of “affairs” that now go to make up the daily 
routine of contemporary political life. We propose a different perception 
of things, a different way to apprehend them. Those who make the laws 
evidently don’t respect them. Those who want to instill the “work ethic” 
in us do fictitious jobs. It’s common knowledge that the drug squad is 
the biggest hash dealer in France. And whenever, by an extraordinary 
chance, a magistrate is bugged, one doesn’t wait long to discover the 
awful negotiations that are hidden behind the noble pronouncement of 
a judgment, an appeal, or a dismissal. To call for Justice in the face of this 
world is to ask a monster to babysit your children. Anyone who knows 
the underside of power immediately ceases to respect it. Deep down, 
the masters have always been anarchists. It’s just that they can’t stand 
for anyone else to be that. And the bosses have always had a bandit’s 
heart. It’s this honorable way of seeing things that has always inspired 
lucid workers to practice pilfering, moonlighting, or even sabotage. One 
really has to be named Michea to believe that the proletariat has ever 
sincerely been moralistic and legalistic. It’s in their lives, among their 
own people, that the proletarians manifest their ethics, not in relation to 
“society” The relationship with society and its hypocrisy can only be one 
of warfare, whether open or not. 

It’s also this line of reasoning that inspired the most determined 
fraction of the demonstrators in the conflict of the spring of 2016. 
Because one of the most remarkable features of that conflict is the fact 
that it took place in the middle of a state of emergency. It’s not by chance 
that the organized forces in Paris who contributed to the formation of 
the cortege de tete are also those who defied the state of emergency at the 
Place dc la Republique, during COP21. There are two ways of taking 
the state of emergency. One can denounce it verbally and plead for a 
return to a “rule of law” which, so far as we can recall, had always 
seemed to come at a heavy price in the time before its “suspension.” But 
one can also say: “Ah! You do as you please! You consider yourselves 
above the laws that you claim to draw your authority from! Well, us too. 
Imagine that!” There are those who protest against a phantom, the state 
of emergency, and those who duly note it and deploy their own state of 
exception in consequence. There where an old left-wing reflex made us 


23 


NOW 


shudder before democracy’s fictitious state of exception, the conflict of 
the spring of 2016 preferred to counterpose, in the streets, its real state 
of exception, its own presence to the world, the singular form of its 
freedom. 

The same goes for the world’s fragmentation. One can deplore it 
and try to swim back up the river of time, but one can also begin from 
there and see how to proceed. It would be simple to contrast a nostalgic, 
reactionary, conservative, “right-wing” affect and a “left-wing,” chaos- 
inflected, multiculturalist postmodernism. Being on the left or on the 
right is to choose among one of the countless ways afforded to humans 
to be imbeciles. And in fact, from one end of the political spectrum 
to the other, the supporters of unity are evenly distributed. There are 
those nostalgic for national greatness everywhere, on the right and on 
the left, from Soral to Ruffin. We tend to forget it, but over a century 
ago a candidate presented himself to serve as a universal form of life: 
the Worker. If he was able to lay claim to that, it was only after the 
great number of amputations he required of himself—in terms of 
sensibility, attachments, taste or affectivity. And this gave him a strange 
appearance. So much so that on seeing him the jury fled and since 
then he wanders about without knowing where to go or what to do, 
painfully encumbering the world with his obsolete glory. In the time of 
his splendor he had all manner of groupies, nationalists or Bolsheviks 
even national-Bolsheviks. In our day we’re observing an explosion of 
the human figure. “Humanity” as a subject no longer has a face. On the 
fringes of an organized impoverishment of subjectivities, we are witness 
to the tenacious persistence and the emergence of singular forms of 
life, which are tracing their path. It is this scandal that they wanted to 
crush, for example, with the jungle of Calais. This resurgence of forms 
of life, in our epoch, also results from the fragmentation of the failed 
universality of the worker. It realizes the mourning period for the worker 
as a figure. A Mexican wake, moreover, that has nothing sad about it. 

To think that, during the conflict of the spring of 2016, we saw 
something unthinkable a few years ago, the fragmentation of the 
General Confederation of Labor (CGT) itsef. While the Marseille CGT used 
its tonfas against the “young people”, the Douai-Armentieres CGT, 
allied with the “uncontrolled ones,” came to blows with the Lille CGT 
security crew, which is more hopelessly Stalinist. The CGT Energie 
called for sabotage of the fiber optic cables in Haute-Loirc used by 


24 


FIFTY SHADES OF BREAKAGE 


the banks and the telephone operators. During the whole conflict, 
what happened in Le Havre bore little resemblance to what was 
happening elsewhere. The dates of demonstration, the positions of 
the local CGT, the caution imposed on the police: all this was in a 
sense autonomous from the national scene as a whole. The CGT in Le 
Havre passed this motion and called the police forces and the prefect 
to advise them of it: “Every time a student is summoned to police 
headquarters, it’s not complicated, the port will shut down!” Le Havre 
had a happy fragmentation. The frictions between the “cortege de tete” 
and the union security personnel led to a remarkable improvement: the 
strictly defensive position of many of the CGT security services from 
then on. They would cease to play a police role in the demonstrations, 
no longer beating on the “autonomists” and handing the “crazies” 
over to the cops, but would focus instead solely on their section of 
the procession. An appreciable, perhaps long-lasting shift, who knows? 
Despite the communique condemning “acts of violence,” a must after 
the demonstration against the National Front at Nantes on February 
25, 2017, the CGT 44 had organized for that occasion together with 
Zadists and other uncontrollables. It’s one of the fortunate effects of 
the spring 2016 conflict, and one that will definitely worry some people 
on the side of the government as well as inside the unions. 

As something endured, the process of fragmentation of the 
world can drive people into misery, isolation, schizophrenia. It can 
be experienced as a senseless loss in the lives of human beings. Were 
invaded by nostalgia then. Belonging is all that remains for those who 
no longer have anything. At the cost of accepting fragmentation as a 
starting point, it can also give rise to an intensification and pluralization 
of the bonds that constitute us. Then fragmentation doesn’t signify separation 
but a shimmering of the world. From the right distance, it’s rather the 
process of “integration in society” that’s revealed to have been a slow 
attrition of being, a continuous separation, a slippage toward more 
and more vulnerability, and a vulnerability that’s increasingly covered 
up. The ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes illustrates what the process 
of fragmentation of the territory can signify. For a territorial state 
as ancient as the French state, that a portion of ground is torn away 
from the national continuum and brought into secession on a lasting 
basis, amply proves that the continuum no longer exists as it did in the 
past. Such a thing would have been unimaginable under de Gaulle, 


25 


NOW 


Clcmenceau, or Napoleon. Back then, they would have sent the infantry 
to settle the matter. Now, a police operation is called “Caesar,” and it 
beats a retreat in the face of a woodland guerrilla response. The fact 
that on the outskirts of the Zone, buses of the National Front could be 
assaulted on a freeway in the style of a stage-coach attack, more or less 
like a police car posted to a banlieue intersection to surveil a camera 
that was surveilling “dealers” got itself torched by a Molotov cocktail, 
indicates that things have indeed become a little like the Far West in 
this country. The process of fragmentation of the national territory, 
at Notre-Dame-des-Landcs, far from constituting a detachment from 
the world, has only multiplied the most unexpected circulations, some 
far-ranging and others occurring close to home. To the point that 
one tells oneself the best proof that extraterrestrials don’t exist is that 
they haven’t gotten in touch with the ZAD. In its turn, the wresting 
away of that piece of land results in its own internal fragmentation, 
its fractalization, the multiplication of worlds within it and hence of 
the territories that coexist and are superimposed there. New collective 
realities, new constructions, new encounters, new thoughts, new 
customs, new arrivals in every sense, with the confrontations arising 
necessarily from the rubbing-together of worlds and ways of being. 
And consequently, a considerable intensification of life, a deepening 
of perceptions, a proliferation of friendships, enmities, experiences, 
horizons, contacts, distances—and a great strategic finesse. With the 
endless fragmentation of the world there is a vertiginous increase in the 
qualitative enrichment of life, and a profusion of forms—for someone 
who thinks about the promise of communism it contains. 

In the fragmentation there is something that points toward what we 
call “communism”: it’s the return to earth, the end of any bringing into 
equivalence, the restitution of all singularities to themselves, the defeat 
of subsumption, of abstraction, the fact that moments, places, things, 
beings and animals all acquire a proper name —their proper name. 
Every creation is born of a splitting off from the whole. As embryology 
shows, each individual is the possibility of a new species as soon as it 
appropriates the conditions that immediately surround it. If the Earth 
is so rich in natural environments this is due to its complete absence 
of uniformity. Realizing the promise of communism contained in the 
world’s fragmentation demands a gesture, a gesture to be performed 
over and over again, a gesture that is life itself: that of creating pathways 


26 


FIFTY SHADES OF BREAKAGE 


between the fragments, of placing them in contact, of organizing their 
encounter, of opening up the roads that lead from one friendly piece 
of the world to another without passing through hostile territory, that 
of establishing the good art of distances between worlds. It’s true that the 
world’s fragmentation disorients and unsettles all the inherited certainties, 
that it defies all of our political and existential categories, that it removes 
the ground underlying the revolutionary tradition itself: it challenges 
us. We recall what Tosquelles explained to Francis Pain concerning the 
Spanish Civil War. In that conflict some were militia, Tosquelles was 
a psychiatrist. He observed that the mental patients tended to be few 
in number because the war, by breaking the grip of the social lie, was 
more therapeutic to the psychotics than the asylum. “Civil war has a 
connection with the non-homogeneity of the Self. Every one of us is 
made up of juxtaposed pieces with paradoxical unions and disunions 
inside us. The personality doesn’t consist of a bloc. If it did, it would 
be a statue. One has to acknowledge this paradoxical thing: war doesn’t 
produce new mental patients. On the contrary, there are fewer neuroses 
during war than in civil life, and there are even psychoses that heal.” 
Here is the paradox, then: being constrained to unity undoes us, the lie 
of social life makes us psychotic, and embracing fragmentation is what 
allows us to regain a serene presence to the world. There is a certain 
mental position where this fact ceases to be perceived in a contradictory 
way. That is where we place ourselves. 

Against the possibility of communism, against any possibility of 
happiness, there stands a hydra with two heads. On the public stage each 
one of them makes a show of being the sworn enemy of the other. On 
one side, there is the program for a fascistic restoration of unity, and on 
the other, there is the global power of the merchants of infrastructure— 
Google as much as Vinci, Amazon as much as Veolia. Those who believe 
that its one or the other will have them both. Because the great builders 
of infrastructure have the means for which the fascists only have the 
folkloric discourse. For the former, the crisis of the old unities is primarily 
the opportunity for a new unification. In the contemporary chaos, in the 
crumbling of institutions, in the death of politics, there is a perfectly 
profitable market for the infrastructural powers and for the giants of the 
Internet. A totally fragmented world remains completely manageable 
cybernetically. A shattered world is even the precondition for the 
omnipotence of those who manage its channels of communication. The 


27 


NOW 


program of these powers is to deploy behind the cracked facades of the 
old hegemonies a new, purely operational, form of unity, which doesn’t 
get bogged down in the ponderous production of an always shaky 
feeling of belonging, but operates directly on “the real,” reconfiguring it. 
A form of unity without limits, and without pretentions, which aims to 
build absolute order under absolute fragmentation. An order that has no 
intention of fabricating a new phantasmal belonging, but is content to 
furnish, through its networks, its servers, its highways, a materiality that 
is imposed on everyone without any questions being asked. No other 
unity than the standardization of interfaces, cities, landscapes; no other 
continuity than that of information. The hypothesis of Silicon Valley 
and the great merchants of infrastructure is that there’s no more need 
to tire oneself out by staging a unity of facade: the unity it intends to 
construct will be integral with the world, incorporated in its networks, 
poured into its concrete. Obviously we don’t feel like we belong to a 
“Google humanity,” but that’s fine with Google so long as all our data 
belong to it. Basically, provided we accept being reduced to the sad ranks 
of “users,” we all belong to the cloud, which does not need to proclaim it. 
To phrase it differently, fragmentation alone does not protect us from an 
attempt to reunify the world by the “rulers of tomorrow”: fragmentation 
is even the prerequisite and the ideal texture for such an initiative. From 
their point of view, the symbolic fragmentation of the world opens up 
the space for its concrete unification; segregation is not contradictory 
to the ultimate networking. On the contrary, it gives it its raison d’etre. 

The necessary condition for the reign of the GAFA (Google, Apple, 
Facebook, Amazon) is that beings, places, fragments of the world remain without 
any real contact. Where the GAFA claim to be “linking up the entire 
world,” what they’re actually doing is working toward the real isolation 
of everybody. By immobilizing bodies. By keeping everyone cloistered 
in their signifying bubble. The power play of cybernetic power is to 
give everyone the impression that they have access to the whole world 
when they are actually more and more separated, that they have more 
and more “friends” when they are more and more autistic. The serial 
crowd of public transportation was always a lonely crowd, but people 
didn’t transport their personal bubble along with them, as they have 
done since smartphones appeared. A bubble that immunizes against 
any contact, in addition to constituting a perfect snitch. This separation 
engineered by cybernetics pushes in a non-accidental way in the direction 


28 


FIFTY SHADES OF BREAKAGE 


of making each fragment into a little paranoid entity, towards a drifting 
of the existential continents where the estrangement that already reigns 
between individuals in this “society” collectivizes ferociously into a 
thousand delirious little aggregates. In the face of all that, the thing to 
do, it would seem, is to leave home, take to the road, go meet up with 
others, work towards forming connections, whether conflictual, prudent, 
or joyful, between the different parts of the world. Organizing ourselves 
has never been anything else than loving each other. 


29 



DEATH TO POLITICS 



If politics were only the politics of “politicians,” it would be enough 
to turn off the TV and the radio to no longer hear it talked about. 
But it so happens that France, which is the “country of human rights” 
only for show, is well and truly the country of power. All social relations 
in France are power relations—and in this country what has not been 
socialized? So that there is politics at every level. In the associations and 
in the collectives. In the villages and the corporations. In the milieus, all 
the milieus. It’s at work everywhere, maneuvering, operating, seeking 
appreciation. It never speaks honestly, because it is afraid. Politics, in 
France, is a cultural disease. Any time people get together, no matter 
what’s at issue, no matter what the purpose is and provided it lasts for a 


31 



NOW 


while, it takes on the structure of a little court society, and there is always 
someone who takes himself for the Sun King. Those who reproach 
Foucault with having developed a rather stifling ontology of power in 
which goodness, love of one’s neighbor, and the Christian virtues have a 
difficult time finding their place should reproach him rather with having 
thought in an admirable way, but perhaps in a way that was a bit too 
French. France thus remains a court society, at the summit of the State 
even in the milieus that declare its perdition the most radically. As if the 
Ancien Regime, as a system of mores, had never died. As if the French 
Revolution had only been a perverse stratagem for maintaining the 
Ancien Regime everywhere, behind the change of phraseology, and for 
protecting it from any attack, since it’s supposed to have been abolished. 
Those who claim that a local politics, “closer to the territories and the 
people,” is what will save us from the decomposition of national politics, 
can defend such an insanity only by holding their noses, because it’s 
evident that what they offer is only a less professional, cruder, and, in 
a word, degenerate version of what there is. For us, it’s not a matter 
of “doing politics differently,” but of doing something different from 
politics. Politics makes one empty and greedy. 

This national syndrome obviously doesn’t spare the radical militant 
milieus. Each little group imagines it is capturing parts of the radicality 
market from its closest rivals by slandering them as much as possible. By 
lusting after the “pieces of the cake” of others, it ends up spoiling the 
cake and smelling of shit. A clear-headed and completely unresigned 
militant recently gave this testimony: “Today, I know that disinterested 
militancy doesn’t exist. Our upbringing, our schooling, our family, the 
social world as a whole rarely make us into well-rounded and serene 
personalities. Were full of hurts, existential issues to be resolved, relational 
expectations, and it’s with this “inner baggage” that we enter into a 
militant life. Through our struggles, we’re all looking for “something 
else”, for gratifications, recognition, social and friendly relations, human 
warmth, meaning to give to our life. In most militants this search for 
gratifications remains rather discreet, it doesn’t take up all the space. In 
certain persons, it should be said, it occupies a disproportionate space. 
We can all think of examples of militants constantly monopolizing the 
talk or trying to control everything, of others putting on a performance or 
always playing on peoples’ feelings, of others who are especially sensitive, 
very aggressive or peremptory in the ways they express themselves... 


32 


DEATH TO POLITICS 


These problems of recognition, gratifications, or power seem to me to 
explain single-handedly the majority of conflicts in the radical groups 
[...] In my view, many apparently political conflicts mask conflicts of ego 
and between persons. That’s my hypothesis. It’s not necessarily correct. 
But from my experience, I have the strong feeling that something else 
is at play in the meetings, the mobilizations, the radical organizations, 
“something else” than the struggle properly speaking, a veritable human 
theater with its comedies, its tragedies, its smooth marivaudages, which 
often push the political objectives which supposedly brought us together 
into the background.” This country is a heartbreaker for sincere souls. 

Nuit debout, in Paris, was many things. It was a rallying point 
and a starting point for all sorts of incredible actions. It was the site 
of wonderful encounters, of informal conversations, of reunions after 
the demonstrations. By offering a continuity between the leapfrog 
demonstration dates which the union confederations are so fond of, Nuit 
debout enabled the conflict triggered by the loi Travail to be something 
altogether different, and more, than a classic “social movement.” Nuit 
debout made it possible to thwart the mundane governmental operation 
consisting in reducing its opponents to powerlcssness by setting them 
at odds with each other, under the categories of “violent” and “non¬ 
violent.” Although it was rechristened “Place de la Commune,” the 
Place de la Republique was not able to deploy the smallest embryo 
of what was Commune-like in the squares movement in Spain or in 
Greece, to say nothing of Tahrir Square, simply because we didn’t have 
the strength to impose a real occupation of the square on the police. 
But if there was a fundamental defect of Nuit debout from the start, it 
was, on the pretext of going beyond classic politics, the way in which it 
reproduced and staged the latter’s principal axiom according to which 
politics is a particular sphere, separate from “life,” an activity consisting 
in speaking, debating, and voting. With the result that Nuit debout 
came to resemble an imaginary parliament, a kind of legislative organ 
with no executive function, and hence a manifestation of powerlessness 
that was sure to please the media and the governing authorities. One 
participant sums up what happened, or rather what didn’t happen , at Nuit 
debout: “The only shared position, perhaps, is the desire for an endless 
discussion [...] The unsaid and the vague have always been privileged to 
the detriment of taking a position, which would be selective by definition, 
hence supposedly non-inclusive.” Another offers the following appraisal: 


33 


NOW 


“A succession of speeches limited to two minutes and never followed 
by any discussion could not fail to be tiresome. Once the surprise had 
worn off at seeing so many people excited about expressing themselves, 
the absence of anything at stake started to empty these meetings of the 
sense they appeared to have. [...] We were here to be together, but the 
rules separated us. We were here to exorcise the curse of our respective 
solitudes, but the assemblies gave the curse a glaring visibility. For me 
the assembly should be the place where the collective is experienced, 
felt, explored, confirmed, and finally, if only in a punctual way, declared. 
But for that, it would have been necessary for real discussions to occur. 
The problem was that we didn’t talk to each other, we spoke one after 
the other. The worst of what we meant to avert on the Place unfolded 
there in a general incomprehension: a collective impotence that mistakes 
the spectacle of solitudes for the invention of an active collective [...] 
A conjuration of blockades finally got the better of my patience. The 
key person of our committee, no doubt without any intentional ill-will 
on her part, had a special gift for discouraging with all sorts of logistic 
and procedural quibbles every attempt to reintroduce some stakes into 
the functioning of the assemblies.” And finally: “Like many others, I 
sometimes had the impression that there was a kind of opaque power 
structure that furnished the major orientations of the movement [...] 
[that there was] another level of decision-making than that of the 
ordinary assemblies.” The microbureaucracy that ran Nuit debout in 
Paris, and that was literally a bureaucracy of the microphone , was caught 
in this uncomfortable situation that it could only roll out its vertical 
strategies hidden behind the spectacle of horizontality presented each day at 
6 pm by the sovereign assembly of emptiness that was held there, with 
its changing walk-on actors. That is why what was said there basically 
didn’t matter much, and least of all to its organizers. Their ambitions 
and strategies were deployed elsewhere than on the square, and in a 
language whose cynicism could be given free reign only on the terrace 
of a hipster cafe, in the last stage of intoxication, between accomplices. 
Nuit debout showed in an exemplary way how “direct democracy,” 
“collective intelligence,” “horizontality,” and hyperformalism could 
function as means of control and a method of sabotage. This might 
seem dreadful, but Nuit debout, nearly everywhere in France, illustrated 
line by line what was said about the “movement of the squares” in To 
Our Friends, and was judged to be so scandalous by many militants at 


34 


DEATH TO POLITICS 


the moment of its publication. To the point that, since the summer of 
2016, every time an assembly begins to turn in circles, and nothing is 
said beyond a rambling succession of leftist monologues, there’s almost 
always someone who will shout, “No, please! Not Nuit dcbout!” This is 
the huge credit that must be granted to Nuit debout: it made the misery 
of assemblyism not just a theoretical certainty but a shared experience. 
But in the fantasy of the assembly and decision-making there’s clearly 
something that escapes any argument. 

This has to do with the fact that the fantasy is implanted deeply in life, 
and not at the surface of “political convictions.” At bottom, the problem of 
political decision-making only redoubles and displaces to a collective scale 
what is already an illusion in the individual: the belief that our actions, our 
thoughts, our gestures, our words, and our behaviors result from decisions 
emanating from a central, conscious, and sovereign entity— the Self. The 
fantasy of the “sovereignty of the Assembly” only repeats on the collective 
plane the sovereignty of the Self. Knowing all that monarchy owes to the 
development of the notion of “sovereignty” leads us to wonder if the myth 
of the Self is not simply the theory of the subject that royalty imposed 
wherever it prevailed in practice. Indeed, for the king to be able to rule 
from his throne in the middle of the country, the Self must be enthroned 
in the middle of the world. One understands better, therefore, where the 
unbelievable narcissism of the general assemblies of Nuit debout comes 
from. It’s the thing, moreover, that ended up killing them, by making 
them the site, in speech after speech, of repeated outbursts of individual 
narcissism, which is to say, outbursts of powerlessness. 

From “terrorist” attacks to the Germanwings crash, people 
have forgotten that the first French “mass killer” of the new century, 
Richard Durn, at Nanterrc in 2002, was a man literally disgusted with 
politics. He had passed through the Socialist Party before joining The 
Greens. He was an activist with the Human Rights League (Ligue des 
droits d’homme). He had made the Genoa “alter-globalization” switch 
in July of 2001. In the end, he had taken a Glock and, on March 27, 
2002, opened fire on the municipal council of Nanterrc, killing eight 
elected officials and wounding nineteen others. In his private journal 
he wrote: “I’m tired of always having in my head this sentence that 
keeps repeating: ‘I haven’t lived, I haven’t lived at all at the age of 30.’ 
[...] Why continue pretending to live? I can only feel myself living for 
a few moments by killing.” Dylan Klebold, one of the two conspirators 


35 


NOW 


of Columbine High School confided to his notebooks: “The meek are 
trampled on, the assholes prevail, the gods are deceiving [...] Farther 
and farther distant...That’s what’s happening...me and everything that 
zombies consider real...just images, not life. [...] The zombies and their 
society band together and try to destroy what is superior and what they 
don’t understand and what they are afraid of.” There you have some 
people who clearly took revenge instead of continuing to stew in their 
resentment. They dealt death and destruction because they didn’t see 
life anywhere. A point has been reached where it’s become impossible 
to maintain that the existential pertains to private life. Every new attack 
reminds us: the existential has a power of political eruption. 

This is the big lie, and the great disaster of politics: to place politics 
on one side and life on the other, on one side what is said but isn’t real 
and on the other what is lived but no longer can be said. There are the 
speeches of the prime minister and, for a century now, the barbed satire 
of the Canard enchaine. There are the tirades of the great militant and 
there’s the way he treats his fellow human beings, with whom he allows 
himself to conduct himself all the more miserably as he takes himself to 
be politically irreproachable. There’s the sphere of the sayablc and the 
voiceless, orphaned, mutilated life. And that takes to crying out because 
it no longer serves any purpose to speak. Hell is really the place where all 
speech is rendered meaningless. What is called “debate” nowadays is just 
the civilized murder of speech. Official politics has become so manifestly 
a repugnant sphere of deception that the only events still happening 
in that sphere reduce down to a paradoxical expression of hatred of 
politics. If Donald Trump is truly a figure of hatred it’s because he is first 
and foremost a figure of the hatred of politics. And it’s this hatred that 
carried him to power. Politics in its totality is what plays into the hands 
of the National Front, and not the “ casseurs ” or the banlieue rioters. 

What the media, the card-carrying militants, and the governments 
cannot forgive the so-called “ casseurs ” and other “black blocs” is: 1. 
proving that powerlessness is not a destiny, which constitutes a galling 
insult for all those who are content to grumble and who prefer to see 
the rioters, contrary to any evidence, as infiltrated agents “paid by the 
banks to aid the government”; 2. showing that one can act politically 
without doing politics, at any point in life and at the price of a little 
courage. What the “casseurs” demonstrate by their actions is that acting 
politically is not a question of discourse but of gestures , and they attest 


36 


DEATH TO POLITICS 


this down to the words they spray paint on the walls of the cities. 

“Politique” should never have become a noun. It should have remained 
an adjective. An attribute, and not a substance. There are conflicts, there 
are encounters, there are actions, there are speech interventions that are 
“political,” because they make a decisive stand against something in a 
given situation, and because they express an affirmation concerning the 
world they desire. Political is that which bursts forth, which forms an 
event, which punches a hole in the orderly progression of the disaster. 
That which provokes polarization, drawing a line, choosing sides. But 
there’s no such thing as “politics.” There’s no specific domain that would 
gather up all these events, all these eruptions, independently of the place 
and moment in which they appear. There’s no particular sphere where 
it would be a question of the affairs of everyone. There’s no sphere 
separate from what is general. It suffices to formulate the matter to 
expose the fraud. Everything is political that relates to the encounter, 
the friction, or the conflict between forms of life, between regimes of 
perception, between sensibilities, between worlds once this contact attains 
a certain threshold of intensity. The crossing of this threshold is signaled 
immediately by its effects: frontlines are drawn, friendships and enmities 
are affirmed, cracks appear in the uniform surface of the social, there 
is a splitting apart of what was falsely joined together and subsurface 
communications between the different resulting fragments. 

What occurred in the spring of 2016 in France was not a social 
movement but Apolitical conflict , in the same way as 1968. This is shown 
by its effects, by the irreversibilities that it produced, by the lives that 
it caused to take a different path, by the desertions it determined, by 
the shared sensibility that is being affirmed since then in a part of the 
youth, and beyond. A generation could very well become ungovernable. 
These effects are making themselves felt even in the ranks of the Socialist 
Party, in the split between the fractions that polarized at that time, in the 
fissure that condemns it to eventual implosion. Social movements have 
a structure, a liturgy, a protocol that define as excessive everything that 
escapes their bounds. Now, not only did this conflict not cease to outstrip 
all the constraints, whether political, union, or police in nature, but it 
was basically nothing but an uninterrupted series of surges. An uninterrupted 
series of surges, which the old worn-out forms of politics tried hopelessly 
to catch up with. The first call to demonstrate on March 9, 2016 was 
a bypassing of the unions by YouTubers, where the former had no 


37 


NOW 


choice but to follow the latter if they meant to preserve some reason 
for being. The subsequent demonstrations saw a continual overrunning 
of the processions by “young people” who positioned themselves in 
the lead. The Nuit debout initiative itself went beyond any recognized 
framework for mobilization. The free marches starting from the Place dc 
la Republique, such as the “aperitif at [Prime Minister] Vails’ house,” 
were a spillover from Nuit debout in their turn. And so on. The only 
“movement demand”—the repeal of the loi Travail—was not really 
one, since it left no room for any adjustment, for any “dialogue.” With 
its entirely negative character, it only signified the refusal to continue 
being governed in this manner, and for some the refusal to be governed 
period. No one here, neither from the government nor among the 
demonstrators, was open to the least negotiation. Back in the days of the 
dialectic and the social, conflict was always a moment of the dialogue. 
But here the semblances of dialogue were simply maneuvers: for the 
state bureaucracy and the union bureaucracy alike, it was a matter of 
marginalizing the party that was eternally absent from all the negotiating 
tables—the party of the street, which this time was the whole enchilada. 
It was a frontal shock between two forces—government against 
demonstrators—between two worlds and two ideas of the world: a world 
of profiteers, presided over by a few profiteers in chief, and a world made 
up of many worlds, where one can breathe and dance and live. Right at 
the outset, the slogan “the world or nothing” expressed what was at issue 
in reality: the loi Travail never formed the terrain of struggle, but rather 
its detonator. There could never be any final reconciliation. There could 
only be a provisional winner, and a loser bent on revenge. 

What is revealed in every political eruption is the irreducible human 
plurality, the unsinkable heterogeneity of ways of being and doing—the 
impossibility of the slightest totalization. For every civilization motivated 
by the drive toward the One, this will always be a scandal. There are 
no strictly political words or language. There is only a political use of 
language in situation, in the face of a determinate adversity. That a 
rock is thrown at a riot cop does not make it a “political rock.” Nor are 
there any political entities—such as France, a party, or a man. What is 
political about them is the inner conflictuality that troubles them, it’s the 
tension between the antagonistic components that constitutes them, at 
the moment when the beautiful image of their unity breaks into pieces. 
We need to abandon the idea that there is politics only where there is 


38 


DEATH TO POLITICS 


vision, program, project, and perspective, where there is a goal, decisions 
to be made, and problems to be solved. What is truly political is only 
what emerges from life and makes it a definite, oriented reality. And it 
is born from what is nearby and not from a projection toward the far- 
distant. The nearby doesn’t mean the restricted, the limited, the narrow, 
the local. It means rather what is in tune, vibrant, adequate, present, 
sensible, luminous, and familiar—the prehensible and comprehensible. 
It’s not a spatial notion but an ethical one. Geographic distance is 
unable to remove us from that which we feel to be near. Conversely, 
being neighbors doesn’t always make us close. It’s only from contact that 
the friend and the enemy are discovered. A political situation does not 
result from a decision but from the shock or the meeting between several 
decisions. Whoever starts from the nearby doesn’t forgo what is distant, 
they simply give themselves a chance to get there. For it’s always from the 
here and now that the far away is given. It’s always here that the distant 
touches us and that we care about it. And this holds true in spite of the 
estrangement power of images, cybernetics, and the social. 

A real political force can be constructed only from near to near 
and from moment to moment, and not through a mere statement of 
purposes. Besides, determining ends is still a means. One uses means 
only in a situation. Even a marathon is always run step by step. This way 
of situating what is political in the nearby, which is not the domestic, 
is the most precious contribution of a certain autonomous feminism. 
In its time, it threw the ideology of entire leftist parties, armed ones, 
into a crisis. The fact that feminists subsequently contributed to re¬ 
distancing the nearby, the “everyday,” by ideologizing it, by politicizing 
it externally, discursively, constitutes the part of the feminist legacy 
that one can very well decline to accept. And to be sure, everything 
in this world is designed to distract us from what is there, very close. 
The “everyday” is predisposed to be the place which a certain stiffness 
would like to preserve from conflicts and affects that are too intense. 
It’s precisely that very cowardice that lets everything slide and ends up 
making the everyday so sticky and our relations so viscous. If we were 
more serene, more sure of ourselves, if we had less fear of conflict and 
of the disruption an encounter might bring, their consequences would 
likely be less disagreeable. And perhaps not disagreeable at all. 


39 



LET’S DESTITUTE THE WORLD 



Even though 80% of French people declared that they no longer 
expect anything from the politicians, the same 80% have confidence 
in the state and its institutions. No scandal, no evidence, no personal 
experience manages to make a dent in the respect owed to the institutional 
framework in this country. It’s always the men who embody it who are 
to blame. There have been blunders, abuses, extraordinary breakdowns. 
The institutions, similar to ideology in this respect, are sheltered from 
the contradiction of facts, however recurrent. It was enough for the 
National Front to promise to restore the institutions to become reassuring 
instead of troubling. There’s nothing surprising in that. The real has 
something intrinsically chaotic about it that humans need to stabilize 
by imposing a legibility, and thereby a foreseeability, on it. And what 
every institution provides is precisely a stationary legibility of the real, an 
ultimate stabilization of phenomena. If the institution suits us so well, 
it’s because the sort of legibility it guarantees saves us above all, each 
one of us, from affirming anything whatsoever, from risking our singular 


41 





NOW 


reading of life and of things, from producing together an intelligibility 
of the world that is properly ours and shared in common. The problem 
is that choosing not to do that is the same as choosing not to exist. It’s to 
resign from life. In reality, what we need are not institutions but forms. It 
so happens, in fact, that life, whether biological, singular or collective, is 
precisely a continual creation of forms. It suffices to perceive them, to 
accept allowing them to arise, to make a place for them and accompany 
their metamorphosis. A habit is a form. A thought is a form. A friendship 
is a form. A work is a form. A profession is a form. Everything that lives 
is only forms and interactions of forms. 

Except that, voila, we are in France, the country where even the 
Revolution has become an institution, and which has exported that 
ambivalence to the four corners of the world. There is a specifically French 
love of the institution that must be dealt with if we wish to talk again 
about revolution one day, if not make one. Here the most libertarian 
of the psychotherapies has seen fit to label itself “institutional,” the 
most critical of the sociologies has given itself the name “institutional 
analysis.” If the principle comes to us from ancient Rome, the affect that 
accompanies it is clearly Christian in origin. The French passion for the 
institution is a flagrant symptom of the lasting Christian impregnation 
of a country that believes itself to be delivered from that. All the more 
lasting, moreover, as it believes itself to be delivered. We should never 
forget that the first modern thinker of the institution was that lunatic 
Calvin, that model of all the despisers of life, and that he was born in 
Picardy. The French passion for the institution comes from a properly 
Christian distrust towards life. The great malice of the institution 
idea is in its claiming to free us from the rule of the passions, from the 
uncontrollable hazards of existence, that it would be a transcendence of 
the passions when it is actually just one of them, and assuredly one of 
the most morbid. The institution claims to be a remedy against men , none 
of whom can be trusted, whether the people or the leader, the neighbor 
or the brother or the stranger. What governs it is always the same idiocy 
of sinful humanity, subject to desire, selfishness, and lust, and who must 
keep from loving anything whatsoever in this world and from giving in to 
their inclinations, which are all uniformly vicious. It’s not his fault if an 
economist like Frederic Lordon can’t picture a revolution that is not a new 
institution. Because all economic science, and not just its “institutional” 
current, has its basis finally in the lessons of Saint Augustine. Through 


42 


let’s destitute the world 


its name and its language, what the institution promises is that a single 
thing, in this lower world, will have transcended time, will have withdrawn 
itself from the unpredictable flux of becoming, will have established a 
bit of tangible eternity, an unequivocal meaning, free of human ties and 
situations—a definitive stabilization of the real, like death. 

This whole mirage dissolves when a revolution breaks out. Suddenly 
what seemed eternal collapses into time as though into a bottomless 
pit. What seemed to plunge its roots into the human heart turns out 
to have been nothing but a fable for dupes. The palaces are vacated 
and one discovers in the prince’s abandoned jumble of papers that he 
no longer believed in it all, if he ever had. For behind the facade of 
the institution, what goes on is always something other than it claims 
to be, its precisely what the institution claimed to have delivered the 
world from: the very human comedy of the coexistence of networks, 
of loyalties, of clans, interests, lineages, dynasties even, a logic of fierce 
struggles for territories, resources, miserable titles, influence— stories of 
sexual conquest and pure folly, of old friendships and rekindled hatreds. 
Every institution is, in its very regularity, the result of an intense bricolage 
and, as an institution, of a denial of that bricolage. It’s supposed fixity 
masks a gluttonous appetite for absorbing, controlling, institutionalizing 
everything that’s on its margins and harbors a bit of life. The real model 
of every institution is universally the Church. Just as the Church clearly 
does not have as its goal leading the human flock to its divine salvation, 
but rather achieving its own salvation in time, the alleged function of 
an institution is only a pretext for its existence. In every institution the 
Legend of the Grand Inquisitor is re-enacted year after year. Its true purpose 
is to persist. No need to specify how many souls and bodies must be 
ground down in order to secure this result, and even within its own 
hierarchy. One doesn’t become a leader without being basically the most 
ground down—the king of the ground-down. Reducing delinquency 
and “defending society” are only the pretext of the carceral institution. 
If, during the centuries it has existed, it has never succeeded at these 
things—on the contrary—this is because its purpose is different; it is 
to go on existing and growing if possible, which means tending to the 
breeding ground of delinquency and managing the illegalities. The 
purpose of the medical institution is not to care for people’s health, but 
to produce the patients that justify its existence and a corresponding 
definition of health. Nothing new on this subject since Ivan Illich and his 


43 


NOW 


Medical Nemesis. It’s not the failure of the health institutions that we are 
now living in a world that is toxic through and through and that makes 
everyone sick. On the contrary, we’ve seen their triumph. Quite often, 
the apparent failure of the institutions is their real function. If school 
discourages children from learning, this is not fortuitously: it’s because 
children with a desire to learn would make school next to useless. 
The same goes for the unions, whose purpose is manifestly not the 
emancipation of workers, but rather the perpetuation of their condition. 
What could the bureaucrats of the labor unions do with their life, in 
fact, if the workers had the bad idea of actually freeing themselves? Of 
course in every institution there are sincere people who really think they 
are there to accomplish their mission. But it’s no accident if those people 
see themselves systematically obstructed, are systematically kept out of 
the loop, punished, bullied, eventually ostracized, with the complicity of 
all the “realists” who keep their mouths shut. These choice victims of 
the institution have a hard time understanding its double talk, and what 
is really being asked of them. Their fate is to always be treated there as 
killjoys, as rebels, and to be endlessly surprised by that. 

Against the slightest revolutionary possibility in France, one will always 
find the institution of the Self and the Self of the institution. Inasmuch 
as “being someone” always comes down finally to the recognition of, 
the allegiance to, some institution, inasmuch as succeeding involves 
conforming to the reflection that you’re shown in the hall of mirrors of 
the social game, the institution has a grip on everyone through the Self. 
All this couldn’t last, would be too rigid, not dynamic enough, if the 
institution wasn’t determined to compensate for its rigidity by a constant 
attention to the movements that jostle it. There’s a perverse dialectic 
between institution and movements, which testifies to the former’s 
relentless survival instinct. A reality as ancient, massive, and hieratic as 
that, inscribed in the bodies and minds of its subjects for the hundreds 
of years the French state has existed, could not have lasted so long if 
it had not been able to tolerate, monitor, and recuperate critics and 
revolutionaries as they presented themselves. The carnivalesque ritual 
of social movements function within it as a safety valve, as a tool for 
managing the social as well as for renewing the institution. They bring 
it the flexibility, the young flesh, the new blood that it so cruelly lacks. 
Generation after generation, in its great wisdom, the state has been able 
to coopt those who showed themselves amenable to being bought off, 


44 


let’s destitute the world 


and crush those who acted intransigent. It’s not for nothing that so many 
leaders of student movements have so naturally advanced to ministerial 
posts, being people who are sure to have a feel for the state, that is, an 
appreciation of the institution as mask. 

Breaking the circle that turns our contestation into a fuel for 
what dominates us, marking a rupture in the fatality that condemns 
revolutions to reproduce what they have driven out, shattering the iron 
cage of counter-revolution—this is the purpose of destitution. The notion 
of destitution is necessary in order to free the revolutionary imaginary 
of all the old constituent fantasies that weigh it down, of the whole 
deceptive legacy of the French Revolution. It is necessary to intervene 
in revolutionary logic, in order to establish a division within the idea of 
insurrection. For there are constituent insurrections, those that end like 
all the revolutions up to now have ended: by turning back into their 
opposite, those that have been made “in the name of”—in the name of 
whom or what? the people, the working class, or God, it matters little. 
And there are destituent insurrections, such as May ‘68, the Italian 
creeping May and so many insurrectionary communes. Despite all that 
it may have manifested that was cool, lively, unexpected, Nuit debout— 
like the Spanish movement of the squares or Occupy Wall Street 
previously—was troubled by the old constituent itch. What was staged 
spontaneously was the old revolutionary dialectic that would oppose the 
“constituted powers” with the “constituent power” of the people taking 
over the public space. There’s a good reason that in the first three weeks 
of Nuit debout, Place dc la Republique, no fewer than three committees 
appeared that gave themselves the mission of rewriting a Constitution. 
What was re-enactcd there was the old debate that’s been performed 
to a full house in France since 1792. And it seems there’s no getting 
enough of it. It’s a national sport. There’s not even any need to spruce 
up the decor to please today’s taste. It must be said that the idea of 
constitutional reform presents the advantage of satisfying both the desire 
to change everything and the desire that everything stay the same—it’s 
just a matter, finally, of changing a few lines, of symbolic modifications. 
As long as one debates words, as long as revolution is formulated in 
the language of rights and the law, the ways of neutralizing it are well- 
known and marked out. 

When sincere Marxists proclaim in a union leaflet, “We are the real 
power!” it’s still the same constituent fiction that is operating, and that 


45 


NOW 


distances us from strategic thinking. The revolutionary aura of this old 
logic is such that in its name the worst mystifications manage to pose 
as self-evident truths. “To speak of constituent power is to speak of 
democracy.” It’s with this risible lie that Toni Negri begins his book on 
the subject, and he’s not the only one to trumpet these kinds of inanities 
that defy good sense. It’s enough to have opened the pages of Constitutional 
Theory by Carl Schmitt, who can’t exactly be counted among the good 
friends of democracy, to realize the contrary. The fiction of constituent 
power suits monarchy as well as it suits dictatorship. Doesn’t that 
pretty presidential slogan, “in the name of the people,” say anything to 
anybody? It’s regrettable to have to point out that Abbe Sieyes, inventor 
of the disastrous distinction between constituent power and constituted 
power, that brilliant sleight of hand, was never a democrat. This is 
what he said in his famous speech of September 7, 1789: “The citizens 
who appoint representatives refrain and must refrain from making the 
law themselves: they do not have any particular will to impose. If they 
dictated wills, France would no longer be this representative state; it 
would be a democratic state. The people, I repeat, in a country that 
is not a democracy (and France cannot be one), the people cannot 
speak, cannot act, except through its representatives.” If to speak of 
“constituent power” is not necessarily to speak of “democracy,” both 
these notions do, however, always lead revolutions into a cul-de-sac. 

Destituere in Latin means: to place standing separate, raise up in 
isolation; to abandon; put aside, let drop, knock down; to let down, 
deceive. Whereas constituent logic crashes against the power apparatus 
it means to take control of, a destituent potential is concerned instead 
with escaping from it, with removing any hold on it which the apparatus 
might have, as it increases its hold on the world in the separate space 
that it forms. Its characteristic gesture is exiting , just as the typical 
constituent gesture is taking by storm. In terms of a destituent logic, the 
struggle against state and capital is valuable first of all for the exit from 
capitalist normality that is experienced therein, for the desertion from 
the shitty relations with oneself, others, and the world under capitalism. 
Thus, where the “constituents” place themselves in a dialectical relation 
of struggle with the ruling authority in order to take possession of it, 
destituent logic obeys the vital need to disengage from it. It doesn’t abandon 
the struggle; it fastens on to the struggles positivity. It doesn’t adjust itself to the 
movements of the adversary but to what is required for the increase of its 


46 


let’s destitute the world 


own potential. So it has little use for criticizing: “The choice is either to get 
out without delay, without wasting one’s time criticizing, simply because 
one is placed elsewhere than in the region of the adversary, or else one 
criticizes, one keeps one foot in it, and has the other one outside. We need 
to leap outside and dance above it,” as Jean-Francois Lyotard explained, 
byway of recognizing the gesture of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. 
And Deleuze made this remark: “Roughly speaking, one recognizes a 
Marxist by their saying that a society contradicts itself, is defined by its 
contradictions, especially its class contradictions. We say rather is that 
in a society everything is escaping, that a society is defined by its lines 
of escape [...] Escape, but while escaping look for a weapon.” It’s not a 
question of fighting for communism. What matters is the communism 
that is lived in the fight itself. The true richness of an action lies within 
itself. This doesn’t mean that for us there’s no question of the observable 
effectiveness of an action. It means that the impact potential of an action 
doesn’t reside in its effects, but in what is immediately expressed in it. 
What is constructed on the basis of effort always ends up collapsing from 
exhaustion. Typically, the operation that the cortege dc tete causes the 
processional setup of union demonstrations to undergo is an operation 
of destitution. With the vital joy it expressed, the rightness of its gesture, 
its determination, with its affirmative as well as offensive character, the 
cortege dc tete drew in all that was still lively in the militant ranks and it 
destituted demonstrations as an institution. Not with a critique of the rest 
of the march but something other than a symbolic use of capturing the 
street. Withdrawing from the institutions is anything but leaving a void, 
it’s suppressing them in a positive way. 

To destitute is not primarily to attack the institution, but to attack the 
need we have of it. It’s not to criticize it—the first critics of the state are 
the civil servants themselves; as to the militant, the more they criticize 
power the more they desire it and the more they refuse to acknowledge 
their desire—but to take to heart what the institution is meant to do, 
from outside it. To destitute the university is to establish, at a distance, 
the places of research, of education and thought, that are more vibrant 
and more demanding than it is—which would not be hard—and to 
greet the arrival of the last vigorous minds who are tired of frequenting 
the academic zombies, and only then to administer its death blow. To 
destitute the judicial system is to learn to settle our disputes ourselves, 
applying some method to this, paralyzing its faculty of judgment and 


47 


NOW 


driving its henchmen from our lives. To destitute medicine is to know 
what is good for us and what makes us sick, to rescue from the institution 
the passionate knowledges that survive there out of view, and never again 
to find oneself alone at the hospital, with one’s body handed over to the 
artistic sovereignty of a disdainful surgeon. To destitute the government 
is to make ourselves ungovernable. Who said anything about winning? 
Overcoming is everything. 

The destituent gesture does not oppose the institution. It doesn’t 
even mount a frontal fight, it neutralizes it, empties it of its substance, 
then steps to the side and watches it expire. It reduces it down to the 
incoherent ensemble of its practices and makes decisions about them. 
A good example of this is the way in which the party then in power, 
the Socialist Party, was led in the summer of 2016 to cancel its universite 
annuelle , the party’s summer school in Nantes. What was constituted in 
June within the assembly called “Attack” [A l’abordage] did something 
the cortege de tete couldn’t do during the whole spring conflict: it got 
the heterogeneous components of the struggle to meet and organize 
together beyond a movement time frame. Unionists, Nuit-deboutists, 
university students, Zadists, high school students, retirees, community 
volunteers, and other artists began to put together a well-deserved 
welcoming committee for the Socialist Party. For the government, the 
risks were great that the little destituent potential that had spoiled life 
for it throughout the spring would be reborn at a higher degree of 
organization. The convergent efforts of the confederations, the police, 
and the vacations to bury the conflict would have all been for nothing. 
So the Socialist Party withdrew and abandoned the idea of doing battle 
faced with the threat posed by the very positivity of the bonds formed 
in the “Attack!” assembly and the determination emanating from them. 
In exactly the same way, it’s the potential of the connections that are 
formed around the ZAD that protects it, and not its military strength. 
The finest destituent victories are often those where the battle simply 
never takes place. 

Fernand Deligny said: “In order to fight against language and the 
institution, the right phrase is perhaps not to fight against, but to take 
the most distance possible, even if this means signaling one’s position. 
Why would we go and press ourselves against the wall? Our project is 
not to take and hold the square.” Deligny was clearly being what Toni 
Negri cannot abide, “a destituent.” But observing what happens when a 


48 


let’s destitute the world 


constituent logic of combining social movements with a party aiming to 
take power, it does look like destitution is the way to go. Thus we saw, in 
the last few years, Syriza, that political party “issuing from the movement 
of the squares,” becoming the best relay for the austerity policies of the 
European Union. As for Podemos, everyone no doubt can appreciate the 
radical novelty of the quarrels for its control, which pitted its number 
1 against its number 2. And how could one forget the touching speech 
of Pablo Iglesias during the legislative campaign of June 2016: “We are 
the political force of law and order [...] We are proud of saying our 
country. [...] Because our country has institutions that enable children 
to go to the theater and to school. That is why we are defenders of the 
institutions, defenders of the law, because the poor only have the law 
and their rights.” Or this instructive tirade of March 2015, in Andalusia: 
“I’d like to pay a tribute: long live our democratic servicemen! Long live 
the Guardia Civil, those policemen who put handcuffs on the corrupt.” 
The latest deplorable political intrigues that now make up the life of 
Podemos moved certain of its members to make this bitter observation: 
“They wanted to take power, and it is power that has taken them.” 
As for the “citizens’ movements” that decided to “squat power” by 
taking possession of the Barcelona mayor’s office, they’ve confided to 
their former friends of the squats something they still can’t declare in 
public: by gaining access to the institutions, they were indeed able to 
“take power,” but there was nothing they could do with it from there, apart 
from scuttling a few hotel projects, legalizing one or two occupations and 
receiving with great ceremony Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris. 

Destitution makes it possible to rethink what we mean by revolution. 
The traditional revolutionary program involved a reclaiming of the 
world, an expropriation of the expropriators, a violent appropriation of 
that which is ours, but which we have been deprived of. But here’s the 
problem: capital has taken hold of every detail and every dimension of 
existence. It has created a world in its image. From being an exploitation 
of the existing forms of life, it has transformed itself into a total universe. 
It has configured, equipped, and made desirable the ways of speaking, 
thinking, eating, working and vacationing, of obeying and rebelling, that 
suit its purpose. In doing so, it has reduced to very little the share of 
things in this world that one might want to reappropriate. Who would 
wish to reappropriate nuclear power plants, Amazons warehouses, 
the expressways, ad agencies, high-speed trains, Dassault, La Defense 


49 


NOW 


business complex, auditing firms, nanotechnologies, supermarkets and 
their poisonous merchandise? Who imagines a people’s takeover of 
industrial farming operations where a single man plows 400 hectares of 
eroded ground at the wheel of his megatractor piloted via satellite? No 
one with any sense. What complicates the task for revolutionaries is that 
the old constituent gesture no longer works there either. With the result 
that the most desperate, the most determined to save it, have finally 
found the winning formula: in order to have done with capitalism, all we 
have to do is reappropriate money itself! A Negriist deduces this from 
the spring of 2016 conflict: “Our goal is the following: transformation 
of the rivers of command money that flow from the faucets of the 
European Central Bank into money as money, into unconditional social 
income! Bring the fiscal paradises back down to Earth, attack the citadels 
of offshore finance, confiscate the deposits of liquid returns, secure 
everyone’s access to the world of commodities—the world in which we 
really live, whether that pleases us or not. The only universalism that 
people love is that of money! Let anyone wishing to take power begin 
by taking the money! Let anyone wishing to institute the commons of 
counter-power begin by securing the material conditions on the basis 
of which those counter-powers can actually be constructed! Let anyone 
preferring the destituent exodus consider the objective possibilities of a 
withdrawal from the production of the dominant social relations that are 
inherent in the possession of money! Let anyone in favor of a general 
and renewable strike reflect at the margins of the wage autonomy 
granted by a socialization of income worthy of that name! Let anyone 
wishing for an insurrection of the subalterns not forget the powerful 
promise of liberation contained in the slogan “Let’s take the money!”’ 
A revolutionary who cares about their mental health will want to leave 
constituent logic and its rivers of imaginary money behind them. 

So the revolutionary gesture no longer consists in a simple violent 
appropriation of this world; it divides into two. On the one hand, there 
are worlds to be made, forms of life made to grow apart from what 
reigns, including by salvaging what can be salvaged from the present state 
of things, and on the other, there is the imperative to attack, to simply 
destroy the world of capital. A two-pronged gesture that divides again: 
it’s clear that the worlds one constructs can maintain their apartness 
from capital only together with the fact of attacking it and conspiring 
against it. It’s clear that attacks not inspired by a different heartfelt idea 


50 


let’s destitute the world 


of the world would have no real reach, would exhaust themselves in a 
sterile activism. In destruction the complicity is constructed on the basis 
of which the sense of destroying is constructed. And vice versa. It’s only 
from the destituent standpoint that one can grasp all that is incredibly 
constructive in the breakage. Without that, one would not understand 
how a whole segment of a union demonstration can applaud and chant 
when the window of a car dealership finally gives way and falls to the 
ground or when a piece of urban furniture is smashed to pieces. Nor 
that it seems so natural for a cortege de tete of 10,000 persons to break 
everything deserving to be broken, and even a bit more, along the 
whole route of a demonstration such as that of June 14, 2016 in Paris. 
Nor that all the anti-smashers rhetoric of the government apparatus, 
so well-established and normally so effective, lost its traction and was 
no longer convincing to anyone. Breaking is understandable, among 
other things, as an open debate in public on the question of property. 
The bad-faith reproach “they always break what is not theirs” needs to 
be turned back around. How can you break something unless, at the 
moment of breaking it, the thing is in your hands, is in a sense yours? 
Recall the Civil Code: “As regards furniture, possession can be taken 
as ownership.” In effect, someone who breaks doesn’t engage in an act 
of negation, but in a paradoxical, counterintuitive affirmation. They 
affirm, against all appearances: “This is ours!” Breaking, therefore, is 
affirmation, is appropriation. It discloses the problematic character of 
the property regime that now governs all things. Or at least it opens 
the debate on this thorny point. And there is scarcely a different way to 
begin it than this, so prone it is to close back down as soon as it is opened 
in a peaceful manner. Everyone will have noted, moreover, how the 
conflict of the spring of 2016 served as a divine lull in the deterioration 
of public debate. 

Only an affirmation has the potential for accomplishing the work 
of destruction. The destituent gesture is thus desertion and attack, 
creation and wrecking, and all at once, in the same gesture. It defies the 
accepted logics of alternativism and activism at the same time. It forms 
a linkage between the extended time of construction and the spasmodic 
time of intervention, between the disposition to enjoy our piece of the 
world and the disposition to place it at stake. Along with the taste for 
risk-taking, the reasons for living disappear. Comfort—which clouds 
perceptions, takes pleasure in repeating words that it empties of any 


51 


NOW 


meaning, and prefers not to know anything—is the real enemy, the 
enemy within. Here it is not a question of a new social contract, but of 
a new strategic composition of worlds. 

Communism is the real movement that destitutes the existing state 
of things. 


52 


END OF WORK, MAGICAL LIFE 



During the conflict triggered by the loi Travail, it seemed to be a 
question of government, of democracy, of article 49.3 of the constitution, 
of violence, migrants, terrorism, of whatever one prefers. But a question 
of work itself? Almost not at all. By comparison, in 1998, during the 
“movement of the unemployed,” it had paradoxically only been a 
question of that, of work, even if it came down to refusing it. Not so 
long ago, when one met someone it was still natural to ask: “So what do 
you do in life?” And the answer came just as naturally. One still managed 
to say what position one held in the general organization of production. 
That could even serve as a calling card. In the time since, the wage¬ 
earning society has imploded to such an extent that one avoids questions 
of this sort, which tend to make people uneasy. Everyone patches things 
together, gets by, branches off, takes a break, starts up again. Work has 
lost its luster and its centrality, not just socially but existentially as well. 

From generation to generation, a larger and larger number of us are 
supernumerary, “useless to the world”—in any case, to the economic 


53 





































































NOW 


world. Seeing that for sixty years there have been people like Norbcrt 
Wiener who prophesized that automation and cybernatization “will 
produce an unemployment compared to which the current difficulties 
and the economic crisis of the years 1930-36 will look like child’s play,” 
it eventually had to come to pass. The latest word is that Amazon is 
planning to open, in the United States, 2000 completely automated 
convenience stores with no cash registers hence no cashiers and under 
total monitoring, with facial recognition of the customers and real-time 
analysis of their gestures. Upon entering you make your smartphone 
beep at a terminal and then you serve yourself. What you take is 
automatically debited from your Premium account, thanks to an app, 
and what you put back on the shelf is re-credited. It’s called Amazon 
Go. In this shopping dystopia of the future there is no more cash money, 
no more standing in line, no more theft, and almost no more employees. 
It’s predicted that this new model, if implemented, will turn the whole 
business of distribution, the greatest provider of jobs in the U.S., upside 
down. Eventually, three quarters of the jobs would disappear in the 
sector of convenience stores. More generally, if one limits oneself to 
the forecasts of the World Bank, by about 2030, under the pressure of 
“innovation,” 40% of the existing jobs in the wealthy countries will have 
vanished. “We will never work,” was a piece of bravado by Rimbaud. 
It’s about to become the lucid assessment of a whole generation of 
young people. 

From the extreme left to the extreme right, there’s no lack of 
bullshitters who endlessly promise us a “return to full employment.” 
Those who would have us regret the golden age of the classic wage 
system, whether they are Marxists or liberals, are not averse to lying about 
its origin. They claim that the wage system freed us from serfdom, from 
slavery, and from the traditional structures—in sum, that it constituted 
a “progress.” Any somewhat serious historical study will show on the 
contrary that it came into being as an extension and intensification of 
prior servitude. The truth is that making a man into the “possessor of his 
labor power” and making him disposed to “sell it,” that is, bringing the 
figure of the Worker into everyday life and customs, was something that 
required a considerable quantity of spoliations, expulsions, plunderings, 
and devastations, a great deal of terror, disciplinary measures, and 
deaths. One hasn’t understood anything about the political character of 
the economy until they’ve seen that what it hinges on as far as labor 


54 


END OF WORK, MAGICAL LIFE 


is concerned is not so much producing commodities as it is producing 
workers —which is to say, a certain relationship with oneself, with the 
world, and with others. Waged labor was the form by which a certain 
order was maintained. The fundamental violence it contains, the 
violence that is obscured by the broken-down body of the assembly¬ 
line worker, the miner killed in a methane explosion, or the burnout 
of employees under extreme managerial pressure, has to do with the 
meaning of life. By selling their time, by turning themselves into the 
subject of the thing they’re employed to do, the wage worker places 
the meaning of their existence in the hands of those who care nothing 
about them, indeed whose purpose is to ride roughshod over them. The 
wage system has enabled generations of men and women to live while 
evading the question of life’s meaning, by “making themselves useful,” 
by “making a career,” by “serving.” The wage worker has always been 
free to postpone this question till later—till retirement, let’s say—while 
leading an honorable social life. And since it is apparently “too late” to 
raise it once retired, all that’s left to do is to wait patiently for death. We 
will thus have been able to spend an entire life without entering into 
existence. There is a good reason why Munch’s painting, The Scream , 
portrays, still today, the true face of contemporary humanity. What 
this desperate individual on their jetty doesn’t find is an answer to the 
question, “How am I to live?” 

For capital, the disintegration of wage-earning society is both an 
opportunity for reorganization and a political risk. The risk is that 
humans might devise an unforeseen use of their time and their life, 
that they might even take to heart the question of its meaning. Those 
in charge have even made sure, therefore, that we humans having the 
leisure are not at liberty to make use of it as we please. It’s as if we 
needed to work more as consumers in proportion as we work less as 
producers. As if consumption no longer signified a satisfaction, but 
rather a social obligation. Moreover, the technological equipment of 
leisure increasingly resembles that of labor. While in our fooling around 
on the Internet all our clicks produce the data that the GAFA resell, 
work is tricked out with all the enticements of gaming by introducing 
scores, levels, bonuses and other infantilizing caveats. Instead of seeing 
the current security push and the orgy of surveillance as a response to 
the September 11 attacks, it would not be unreasonable to see them 
as a response to the economically established fact that it was precisely 


55 


NOW 


in 2000 that technological innovation started to decrease the volume 
of job offerings. It’s now necessary to be able to monitor en masse all 
our activities, all our communications, all our gestures, to place cameras 
and sensors everywhere, because wage-earning discipline no longer suffices for 
controlling the population. It’s only to a population totally under control that 
one can dream of offering a universal basic income. 

But that’s not the main thing. It’s necessary above all to maintain the 
reign of the economy beyond the extinction of the wage system. This 
has to do with the fact that if there is less and less work, everything is all 
the more mediated by money , be it in very small amounts. Given the absence 
of work, the need to earn money in order to survive must be maintained. 
Even if a universal basic income is established one day, as so many liberal 
economists recommend, its amount would need to be large enough to 
keep a person from dying of hunger, but utterly insufficient to live on, 
even frugally. We are witnessing a change of regime within economy. 
The majestic figure of the Worker is being succeeded by the puny figure 
of the Needy Opportunist [le Crevard] —because if money and control 
are to infiltrate everywhere, it’s necessary for money to be lacking 
everywhere. Henceforth, everything must be an occasion for generating 
a little money, a little value, for earning “a little cash.” The present 
technological offensive should also be understood as a way to occupy 
and valorize those who can no longer be exploited through waged labor. 
What is too quickly described as the Uberization of the world, unfolds in 
two different ways. Thus on the one hand you have Ubcr, Deliveroo and 
the like, that unskilled job opportunity requiring only one’s old machine 
as capital. Every driver is free to self-exploit as much as they like, knowing 
that they must roll around fifty hours a week to earn the equivalent of 
the minimum wage. And then there are Airbnb, BlaBlaCar, dating sites, 
“coworking,” and now even “cohoming” or “costorage,” and all the 
applications that enable the sphere of the valorizable to be extended 
to infinity. What is involved with the “collaborative economy,” with its 
inexhaustible possibilities of valorization, is not just a mutation of life— 
it’s a mutation of the possible, a mutation of the norm. Before Airbnb, 
an unoccupied room was a “guest room” or a room available for a new 
use; now it’s a loss of income. Before BlaBlaCar, a solo drive in one’s 
car was an occasion to daydream, or pick up a hitchhiker, or whatever, 
but now it’s a missed chance to make a little money, and hence a scandal , 
economically speaking. What one gave to recycling or to friends one 


56 


END OF WORK, MAGICAL LIFE 


now sells on Le bon coin. It’s expected that always and from every point 
of view one will be engaged in calculating. That the fear of “missing an 
opportunity” will goad us forward in life. The important thing is not 
working for one euro an hour or making a few pennies by scanning 
contents for Amazon Mechanical Turk, but where this participation 
might lead someday. Henceforth everything must enter into the sphere 
of profitability. Everything in life becomes valorizable, even its trash. 
And we ourselves are becoming needy opportunists, human trash, 
who exploit each other under the pretext of a “sharing economy.” If a 
growing share of the population is destined to be excluded from the wage 
system this is not in order to allow it the leisure to go hunt Pokemons in 
the morning and to fish in the afternoon. The invention of new markets 
where one didn’t imagine them to be the year before illustrates this fact 
that is so difficult to explain to a Marxist: capitalism doesn’t so much 
consist in selling what is produced as in rendering accountable whatever is not 
yet accountable , in assigning a measureable worth to what seemed to be 
absolutely unsusceptible to that the day before, in creating new markets. 
That is its oceanic reserve of accumulation. Capitalism is the universal 
expansion of measurement. 

In economics, the theory of the Needy Opportunist, the Crcvard, is 
called the “theory of human capital,” which is more presentable. The 
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development defines 
it these days as “the knowledge, skills, competencies and attributes in 
individuals that facilitate the creation of personal, social and economic 
well-being.” Joseph Stiglitz, the left-economist, estimates that “human 
capital” now represents between 2/3 and 3/4 of the total capital—which 
tends to confirm the correctness of Stalin’s unironic title: Man, the Most 
Precious Capital. According to Locke, “Man has a Property in his own 
Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his 
Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his” ( Treatise 
of Civil Government ), which in his mind did not rule out either servitude or 
colonization. Marx made “man” the proprietor of his “labor power”—a 
rather mysterious metaphysical entity, when you think about it. But 
in both cases man was the owner of something that he could alienate 
while remaining intact. He was formally something other than what he 
sold. With the theory of human capital, man is less the possessor of an 
indefinite cluster of capitals—cultural, relational, professional, financial, 
symbolic, sexual, health— than he is himself that cluster. He is capital. He 


57 


NOW 


constantly arbitrates between increasing what he is as capital, and the 
fact of selling it in some market or other. He is inseparably the producer, 
the product, and the seller of the product. Football players, actors, stars, 
and popular YouTubers are logically the heroes of the era of human 
capital, people whose value fully coincides with what they are. Micro¬ 
economics thus becomes the general science of behaviors, whether this 
is in commerce, at church, or in love. Everyone becomes an enterprise 
guided by a constant concern with self-valorization, by a vital imperative 
of self-promotion. In essence man becomes the optimizing creature — the 
Needy Opportunist. 

The reign of the Needy Opportunist is an aspect of what the journal 
Invariance called, in the 1960s, the anthropomorphosis of capital. As capital 
“realizes, on the entire planet and in the whole life of every person, the 
modes of total colonization of what exists that are designated by the 
terms real domination [...] the Self-as-capital is the new form that value 
aims to assume after devalorization. Within each one of us capital is 
summoning the life force to work (Cesarano, Apocalypse et revolution).” 
This is the machination by which capital appropriates all the human 
attributes and by which humans make themselves into the neutral 
support of capitalist valorization. Capital no longer just determines 
the forms of cities, the content of work and leisure, the imaginary of 
the crowds, the language of real life and that of intimacy, the ways of 
being in fashion, the needs and their satisfaction, it also produces its own 
people. It engenders its own optimizing humanity. Here all the old chestnuts 
about value theory take their place in the wax museum. Consider the 
contemporary case of the dance floor of a nightclub: no one is there for 
the money but to have fun. No one was forced to go there in the way 
one goes back to work. There is no apparent exploitation, no visible 
circulation of money between future partners who are still moving 
and grooving together. And yet everything going on there has to do 
with evaluation, valorization, self-valorization, individual preference, 
strategies, ideal matching of a supply and a demand, under constraint 
of optimization—in short, a neo-classical and human-capital market, 
pure and simple. The logic of value now coincides with organized life. 
Economy as a relationship with the world has long surpassed economy 
as a sphere. The folly of evaluation obviously dominates every aspect 
of contemporary work, but it also rules over everything that escapes 
that sphere. It determines even the solitary jogger’s relationship with 


58 


END OF WORK, MAGICAL LIFE 


themselves, the jogger who, in order to improve their performances, 
needs to know them in detail. Measurement has become the obligatory 
mode of being of all that intends to exist socially. Social media outlines 
very logically the future of all-points evaluation that we are promised. 
On this point, one can rely on the prophesies of Black Mirror as well as 
those of this analyst who is enthusiastic about contemporary markets: 
“Imagine that tomorrow, with every little word posted on the Web, for 
no matter what online babble, exchange, meeting, transaction, share, 
or behavior, you will need to consider the impact this might have on 
your reputation. Consider next that your reputation will no longer 
be a kind of immaterial emanation that certain people will be able to 
inquire about with your friends and professional partners, but an actual 
certificate of all-round ability established by complex algorithms based 
on the intersection of a thousand and one pieces of information about 
you on the Web...data which are themselves cross-referenced with the 
reputations of the persons you have rubbed shoulders with! Welcome to 
an imminent future, where your “reputation” will be concretely recorded, 
as a universal hie accessible to all: a relational, professional, commercial 
door-opener, capable of allowing or preventing an opportunity for 
car sharing on Mobizen or Deways, a romantic meeting on Meetic 
or Attractive World, a sale on eBay or Amazon....and more, this time 
in the quite tangible world: a professional appointment, a real estate 
transaction, or a bank loan. Increasingly, our appearances on the Web 
will constitute the foundation of our reputation. Furthermore, our social 
value will become a major indicator of our economic value.” 

What is new in the current phase of capital is that it now has the 
technical means at its disposal for a generalized, real-time evaluation 
of every aspect of beings. The passion for rating and cross-rating has 
escaped the classrooms, the stock market, and supervisors’ files and 
invaded every area of life. If one accepts the paradoxical notion of “use 
value” as designating “the very body of the commodity [...], its natural 
properties [...], an assemblage of multiple characteristics” (Marx), the 
held of value has been refined to the point that it manages to achieve 
a tight fit with that famous “use value,” places, the characteristics of 
beings, and things: it conforms to bodies so closely that it coincides 
with them like a second skin. This is what an economist-sociologist, 
Lucien Karpik, calls the “economy of singularities.” The value of 
things tends not to be distinguishable from their concrete existence. A 


59 


NOW 


French-Lebanese financier, Bernard Mourad, made this into a piece of 
fiction: Les Actifs corporels [Corporal Assets]. It may be useful to know 
that the author went from the Morgan Stanley commercial bank to the 
directorship of the Altice Media Group, Patric Drain’s holding branch 
that controls Liberation , L’Express and i24 News in particular, before 
becoming Emmanuel Macron’s special adviser during his campaign. In 
the novel, he imagines the entry of a person into the stock market, a 
banker obviously, with his psychoanalytic and professional profile and 
biological checkup in support. This story of the insertion of a “society- 
cum-person” into a market position in the context of a “New Individual 
Economy” was futuristic upon its publication in 2006. Currently the 
employer federation MEDEF is proposing that a SIRET number, a 
business identification number, be assigned to every French citizen at 
their birth. The value of beings becomes the set of their “individual 
characteristics”—their health, their humor, their beauty, their know¬ 
how, their relations, their “social skills,” their imagination, their 
creativity, and so on. That’s the theory, and the reality, of “human 
capital.” The value field has incorporated so many dimensions that it 
has become a complex space. It’s become the whole ensemble of the 
socially sayablc, legible, and visible. The value that was social in a formal 
sense has become social in a real sense. As money lost its impersonal, 
anonymous, indifferent character to become traceable, localized, 
personalized, currency came alive as well. “The modern world,” wrote 
Peguy, “is not prostitutional through lust. It is quite incapable of that. 
It is universally prostitutional because it is universally interchangeable.” 
Something prostitutional enters in wherever our “social value” reigns, 
wherever a part of ourselves is exchanged for the least remuneration, 
be it financial, symbolic, political, affective, or sexual. Contemporary 
dating sites form a remarkable case of mutual and fun prostitution, but 
prostitution happens everywhere, and all the time, whenever people sell 
themselves. Who can say, nowadays when all reputational capital is so 
easily convertible into sexual surplus value, that we are not in “a phase 
in industrial production where producers are able to demand objects of 
sensation from consumers as a form of payment. These objects would 
be living beings. [...] Living currency, even if it existed in parallel with 
the market of inert currency, would be fully capable of being substituted 
for the role of the gold standard, once it was implanted in habits and 
instituted in economic norms.” (Pierre Klossowski, Living Currency). 


60 


END OF WORK, MAGICAL LIFE 


The giddiness associated with money derives from its nature as pure 
potential. Monetary accumulation is the postponement of any actual 
enjoyment, since money brings into equivalence as possibilities the 
whole array of things that can be bought with it. Every expenditure, 
every purchase is first a forfeiture, relative to what money is capable of. 
Every specific enjoyment it allows one to acquire is first a negation of the 
set of other potential enjoyments it contains within it. In the epoch of 
human capital and living currency, every moment of life and every real 
relation are haloed by a set of possible equivalents that gnaw at them. 
Being here involves the untenable renunciation of being everywhere else, 
where life is apparently more intense, as our smartphone has charged 
itself with informing us. Being with a particular person is an unbearable 
sacrifice of all the other persons with whom one could just as well be with. 
Every love is vitiated in advance by all the other possible loves. Hence 
the impossibility of being there, the ineptitude for bcing-with. Universal 
unhappiness. Torture by possibilities. Sickness unto death. “Despair,” as 
Kierkegaard diagnosed it. 

Economy is not just a system we must exit if we are to cease being 
needy opportunists. It is what we must escape simply in order to live, 
in order to be present to the world. Each thing, each being, each place 
is immeasurable inasmuch as it is there. One can measure a thing as 
much as one likes, from every angle and in all its dimensions, its concrete 
existence is eternally beyond all measure. Each being is irrcducibly 
singular, if only from the fact of being here now. Ultimately, the real 
is incalculable, unmanageable. That is why it takes so many policing 
measures to preserve a semblance of order, uniformity, equivalence. “The 
confusing reality of things/ Is my everyday discovery/ Each thing is 
what it is/ It’s hard to explain to anyone how much that pleases me, 
and how sufficient it is for me/ It’s enough to exist to be complete. [...] 
If I extend my arm, I reach exactly where my arm reaches./ Not even 
a centimeter farther./ I touch there where I touch, not there where I 
think./ I can only sit down where I am./ And what is truly laughable 
is that we’re always thinking of something else and roaming far from a 
body” (Alberto Caeiro). As its guiding principle, the economy makes us 
scurry about like rats, so that we’re never there , to uncover the secret of 
its usurpation: presence. 

To leave the economy is to bring out the plane of reality it covers 
over. Commodity exchange and all that it comprises in the way of harsh 


61 


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negotiation, mistrust, deceit, and wabu wabu, as the Melanesians say, 
is not exclusively Western. In places where people know how to live, 
one only practices this type of relations with outsiders, people one is 
not connected with, who are distant enough so that a mix-up cannot 
develop into a general conflict. To pay, in Latin, comes from pacare, “to 
satisfy, to calm,” for example by distributing money to soldiers so they 
can buy themselves some salt—thus a wage. One pays in order to have 
peace. The whole vocabulary of economy is basically a vocabulary of 
avoided war. “There is a link, a continuity, between hostile relations 
and the provision of reciprocal prestations: Exchanges are peacefully 
resolved wars, and wars are the result of unsuccessful transactions.” 
(Levi-Strauss). Economy’s defect is to reduce all possible relationships 
to hostile relations, every distance to foreignness. What it covers over 
in this way is the entire gamut, all the gradation, all the heterogeneity 
among the different existing and imaginable relations. Depending on 
the degree of proximity between beings, there is a commonality of 
goods, a sharing of certain things, exchange with an adjusted reciprocity, 
mercantile exchange, or a total absence of exchange. And every form 
of life has its language and its notions for expressing this multiplicity 
of regimes. Making the bastards pay is good warfare. When you love 
you don’t count the cost. Where money talks, words are worth nothing; 
where words matter, money’s worth nothing. Thus, exiting the economy 
is being able to clearly distinguish between the possible divisions and, 
from where one is, to deploy a whole art of distances. It’s to push the 
hostile relations—and the sphere of money, accounting, measurement— 
as far away as possible. It’s to banish to the margins of life that which is 
presently its norm, its core, its essential condition. 

There’s a boatload of people nowadays who are trying to escape the 
rule of the economy. They’re becoming bakers instead of consultants. 
They’re going on unemployment as soon as they can. They’re forming 
cooperatives, SCOPs and SCICs. They’re trying to “work differently.” 
But the economy is so well designed that it now has a whole sector, that 
of the “social and solidarity economy,” which runs on the energy of 
those escaping it. A sector that merits a special ministry and accounts 
for 10% of the French GDP. All kinds of nets, discourses, and legal 
structures have been put in place to capture the escapees. They devote 
themselves in all sincerity to the thing they dream of doing, but their 
activity is socially recoded, and this coding ends up overshadowing 


62 


END OF WORK, MAGICAL LIFE 


everything they do. A few people take collective responsibility for the 
upkeep of their hamlets water source and one day they find that they’re 
“managing the commons.” Not many sectors have developed such an 
obsessive love of bookkeeping, out of a concern for justice, transparency, 
or exemplarity, as that of the social and solidarity economy. Any small 
to medium business is a bookkeeping bordello by comparison. However, 
we do have more than a hundred and fifty years of experience of 
cooperatives telling us they have never constituted the slightest threat 
to capitalism. Those that survive end up sooner or later becoming 
businesses like the others. There is no “other economythere’s just another 
relationship with the economy. A relationship of distance and hostility, to be 
exact. The mistake of the social and solidarity economy is to believe in 
the structures it adopts. It’s to insist that what occurs inside it conforms 
to the statutes, to the official modes of operation. The only relationship 
one can have with the structures adopted is to use them as umbrellas 
for doing something altogether different than what the economy authorizes. So it 
is to be complicit in that use and that distance. A commercial print shop 
tended by a friend will make its machines available on the weekends it is 
idle, and the paper will be paid for under the table so there’s no record. A 
group of carpenter friends will use all the equipment they have access to 
in their company to build a cabin for the ZAD. A restaurant whose name 
is known and respected throughout the city hosts after-hours discussions 
among comrades that mustn’t be heard by the intelligence services. We 
should make use of economic structures only on condition that we tear 
a hole in them. 

As an economic structure, no business has any meaning. It exists, and 
that is all, but it is nothing. Its meaning can only come to it from an element 
that is foreign to economy. Generally, it’s the task of “communication” 
to clothe the economic structure in the meaning it lacks—moreover, 
the exemplary moral significance and reasons for being that the entities 
of the social and solidarity economy are so fond of giving themselves 
must be considered as a banal form of “communication” intended 
for internal consumption as much as it is directed toward the outside. 
This makes some of those entities into niches that allow themselves to 
practice oddly expensive pricing on the one hand, and on the other to 
be exploitative in a way that’s all the more brazen as it is “for a good 
cause.” As for the structure with holes in it, it draws its meaning not 
from what it communicates but from what it keeps secret: its clandestine 


63 


NOW 


participation in a political scheme immeasurably larger than it, its use 
for ends that are economically neutral, not to say senseless, but politically 
judicious, and for means that as an economic structure it is designed to 
accumulate without end. Organizing in a revolutionary way via a whole 
resistance network of legal structures exchanging between themselves is 
possible, but risky. Among other things, this could furnish an ideal cover 
for international conspiratorial relations. There’s always the threat, 
however, of falling back into the economic rut, of losing the thread of 
what we’re doing, of no longer seeing the sense of the conspiracy. The 
fact remains that we must organize ourselves, organize on the basis of 
what we love to do, and provide ourselves the means to do it. 

The only gauge of the state of crisis of capital is the degree of 
organization of those aiming to destroy it. 


64 


EVERYONE HATES THE POLICE 



It resembles a physical law. The more the social order loses credit, 
the more it arms its police. The more the institutions withdraw, the more 
they advance in terms of surveillance. The less respect the authorities 
inspire, the more they seek to keep us respectful through force. And it’s 
a vicious circle, because force never has anything respectable about it. 
So that to the growing debauchery of force there is an ever diminishing 
effectiveness of the latter in response. Maintaining order is the main 
activity of an order that has already failed. One only has to go to the 
CAF, the family assistance fund, to take stock of things that cannot last. 
When an agency as benign as that must surround itself with guards, ploys, 
and threats to defend itself from its clients, one realizes that a certain 
rationality has come to an end. When the orderliness of demonstrations 


65 



NOW 


can no longer be assured except by means of sting-ball grenades and 
kettlings, and the demonstrators are forced to flee the green lasers of 
the Anti-Crime Brigade’s LBD 40s, targeting its future victims, this is 
an indication that “society” has already reached the stage of palliative 
treatment. When the calm of the banlieues comes at the cost of arming 
the CRS with automatic rifles, we know that a certain figure of the 
world has faded. It’s never a good sign when a democratic regime takes 
up the habit of having its population fired upon. Since the time when 
politics started to be reduced, in every domain, to a vast police operation 
conducted day after day, it was inevitable that policing would become a 
political question. 

Let’s go back a few months. After the declaration of the state of 
emergency, the Forfeiture-of-Nationality Bill, the Intelligence Act, the 
Macron Law, the killing of Remi Fraisse, the Competitiveness and 
Employment Tax Credit and its millions offered to the bosses, the loi 
Travail was meant to complete the ultimate demoralization of a “left¬ 
leaning people” supposedly brought to the edge of the abyss. What 
the powers-that-be could not understand is that the loss of every hope 
also forms the precondition for pure revolt—the revolt that no longer 
seeks support in the thing it is negating and gets its warrant only from 
itself. What crystallized in the conflict against the loi Travail was not the 
partial refusal of a disastrous reform, but the massive discrediting of the 
government apparatuses, including the union ones. It’s not surprising 
that the banner of the French spring, “Soyons ingouvernable,” rendered 
as “Become ungovernable,” re-emerged in Washington in the protests 
against Donald Trump’s inauguration. Since within the governmental 
apparatus the police have the function of ensuring individual submission 
in the last instance, of producing the population as a population, as a 
powerless, and hence governable, depoliticized mass, it was logical that 
a conflict expressing the refusal to be governed would begin by laying 
into the police and would adopt the most popular slogan: “Everybody 
hates the police.” Escaping its shepherd, the flock could not have found 
a better rallying cry. What is more unexpected is that this slogan, 
appearing in the demonstrations following the killing of Remi Fraisse 
at Sivens eventually reached all the way to Bobigny after the police rape 
of Theo, as a slogan of “young people” there, thrown in the face of the 
uniformed brutes who were eyeing them from a raised metal passageway 
turned into a mirador. 


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EVERYONE HATES THE POLICE 


“ Tout le monde deteste la police” expresses more than a simple animosity 
towards cops. Because for the first thinkers of sovereignty, at the beginning 
of the 17th century, policing was nothing other than the constitution of 
the state, its very form in fact. At the time, it was not yet an instrument 
in the hands of the latter, and there was not yet a police lieutenancy 
in Paris. So that during the 17th and 18th centuries, “police” still had 
a very broad meaning: thus la police was “everything that can give an 
adornment, a form, and a splendor to the city” (Turquet dc Mayerne), 
“all the means that are useful to the splendor of the whole State and 
to the happiness of all the citizens” (Hohenthal). Its role was said to be 
that of “leading man to the most perfect felicity he can enjoy in this life” 
(Delamare). Policing had to do with the cleanliness of the streets and 
the provisioning of markets, with public lighting and the confinement 
of vagabonds, with the fair price of grains and the clearing of canals, 
the healthiness of the urban environment and the arresting of bandits. 
Fouche and Vidocq had not yet given it its modern, popular face. 

If one wishes to understand what is at stake in this eminently 
political question of policing, its necessary to grasp the conjuring trick 
operating between policing as a means and policing as an end. On the 
one hand, there is the ideal, legal, fictitious social order—policing as 
an end—and then there is its real order, or rather its real disorder. The 
function of policing as a means is to make sure that the desired external 
order appears to reign. It ensures the order of things by using the weapons 
of disorder and reigns over the visible through its elusive activity. Its 
daily practices—kidnapping, beating, spying, stealing, forcing, deceiving, 
lying, killing, being armed—cover the whole register of illegality, so 
that its very existence never ceases being basically unavowable. Being 
proof that what is legal is not what is real, that order does not reign, that 
society doesn’t cohere since it’s not held together by its own powers, policing is 
constantly pushed into the shadows, where it occupies one of the world’s 
blind spots as far as thinking is concerned. For the ruling order, it’s like 
a birthmark in the middle of the face. It is the persistent and constant 
expression of the state of exception—that which every sovereignty wishes 
it could hide, but which it is regularly forced to exhibit in order to make 
itself feared. If the state of exception is that momentary suspension of 
the law that makes it possible to reestablish the conditions for the rule of 
law, through the most arbitrary and bloody measures, the police in their 
daily operation are what remains of the state of exception when those 


67 


NOW 


conditions have been restored. The police in their daily operation are 
what persists of the state of exception in the normal situation. This is 
why their sovereign operation is itself so concealed. When the policeman 
faced with a recalcitrant arrestee lets loose with “The law, I am the law!” 
it’s always out of earshot. Or when on a day of demonstration, the riot 
cop dragging a comrade away for no valid reason waxes ironic: “I do 
as I like. You see, for me too its anarchy today!” For political economy 
and cybernetics alike, the police remain like a shameful and unthinkable 
relic, a memento mori that reminds them that their order, which wants 
to think of itself as natural, is still not that and doubtless never will 
be. Thus the police oversee an apparent order that internally is only 
disorder. They are the truth of a world of lies, and hence a continuing lie 
themselves. They testify to the fact that the ruling order is artificial and 
will sooner or later be destroyed. 

So it’s no small matter that we live in a time when this obscene, 
opaque recourse which the police constitute is coming into the full 
light of day. That armed, hooded police officers calmly march as an 
unauthorized cortege on the Elysee, as they did last autumn, to the cry 
of “corrupt unions” and “Freemasons to prison,” without anyone daring 
to talk about a seditious activity... that an American president finds 
himself facing a large portion of the “intelligence community” and that 
the latter, after forcing the resignation of his national security adviser, 
clearly aim to bring him down... that the death penalty, abolished by 
the law, has manifestly been re-instituted by the police in the case of 
interventions against “terrorists”... that the police have succeeded 
in asserting a near-total judicial impunity for their most indefensible 
sprees... that certain bodies within the police structure more and more 
openly declare their alignment with the National Front... that what was 
treated as newsworthy about May 18, 2016 was not that certain police 
unions had privatized the Place de la Republique—where Nuit debout 
was still meeting—for the duration of their get-together in the presence 
of Gilbert Collard and Eric Ciotti or Marion Marechal-Le Pen, but 
a police car in flames along the Saint Martin Canal—taken together, 
these items outline the contours of a substantial shift. This is what the 
media’s promotion of a minor fracas to the status of a big deal was 
meant to hide. It was necessary, moreover, to prevent this police parade 
that ended at a little sign placed a few meters in front of the burning 
vehicle: “grilled chicken, pay as you like,” from setting off, in reaction 

68 


EVERYONE HATES THE POLICE 


to such a nose-thumbing, a big ripple of laughter infecting the whole 
population. So the Interior Minister felt obliged to hastily announce 
possible charges of “attempted homicide.” In this way, he could replace 
an irresistible comical urge traversing the population by feelings of fear 
and gravity, culminating in a call for revenge. Policing operations are 
also operations aimed at the affects. And it’s because of this particular 
operation that the justice system has been obsessing over its indictees 
for the Quai Valmy attack. After Theo’s rape, a police officer made this 
mattcr-of-fact confession to the Parisien: “We belong to a gang. Whatever 
happens, we’re in it together.” 

The slogan “Everybody hates the police” doesn’t express an 
observation, which would be false, but an affect, which is vital. Contrary 
to the cowardly worries of governing authorities and editorialists, 
there is no “gulf that deepens year by year between the police and the 
population,” there is a deepening gulf between those—and they are 
countless—who have excellent reasons for hating the police and the fear- 
ridden mass of those who embrace the cause of the cops, when they 
are not hugging the cops themselves. In reality, what we’re witnessing 
is a major turnaround in the relation between the government and the 
police. For a long time, the forces of order were those ignorant puppets, 
despised but brutal, that were brandished against the restive populations. 
Somewhere between a parachutist, a lightning rod, and a punching ball. 
The governing authorities have now reached such depths of discredit 
that the contempt they elicit has surpassed that of the police, and the 
police know it. The police understood, albeit slowly, that it had become 
the precondition of government, its survival kit, its mobile respirator. So 
that their relationship has reversed itself. Henceforth the governing 
authorities are rattles in the hands of the police. They no longer have 
any other choice but to rush to the bedside of the lowest-gradc cop with 
a pain and to yield to all the whims of the force. After the license to 
kill, anonymity, impunity, the latest weaponry, what can they still want 
to obtain? Even so, there is no lack of factions in the police force who 
imagine themselves growing wings and turning into an autonomous 
force with its own political agenda. In this regard, Russia looks like a 
paradise, where the secret services, the police, and the army have already 
taken power and govern the country to their benefit. While the police 
are certainly not in a position to go autonomous materially, that doesn’t 
prevent them from waving the threat of their political autonomy to the 


69 


NOW 


sound of all their wailing sirens. 

The police are thus torn between two contradictory tendencies. 
One of them, conservative, bureaucratic, “republican,” would definitely 
prefer to remain just a means in the service of an order that is less and 
less respected, to be sure. The other is spoiling for a throwdown, wanting 
to “clear out the rabble” and no longer answer to anyone—to be their 
own end. Basically, only the coming to power of a party determined to 
“clear out the rabble” and to support the police apparatus one hundred 
percent could reconcile these two tendencies. But such a government 
would be in its turn a government of civil war. 

As a means of justifying itself, the state was left with the plebiscitary 
legitimacy of the grand democratic elections, but that last fount of 
legitimacy has gone dry. Whatever the outcome of a presidential election, 
even if the option of a “strong power” wins out, such an election is 
bound to produce a weak power, considering how things stand. It will be 
as if the election had never taken place. The minority that mobilized to carry 
its favorite to victory will put them in command of a foundering ship. 
As we see with Donald Trump in the U.S., the pledge to brutally restore 
the national unity delivers its opposite: once in power, the return-to- 
order candidate finds themselves at odds not only with whole swaths of 
society but also entire sections of the state apparatus itself. The promise 
to reestablish order only adds to the chaos. 

In a country like France, that is, in a country that may very well be a 
police state on condition that it not declare it publicly, it would be foolish 
to seek a military victory over the police. Taking aim at a uniform with a 
paving stone is not the same thing as entering into close-quarters combat 
with an armed force. The police are a target and not an objective, an 
obstacle and not an opponent. Whoever takes the cops for an opponent 
prevents themselves from breaking through the obstacle the police 
constitute. To successfully sweep them aside, we must aim beyond them. 
Against the police, the only victory is political. Disorganizing their ranks, 
stripping them of all legitimacy, reducing them to powerlessness, keeping 
them at a good distance, giving oneself more room for maneuver at the 
right moment and at the places one chooses: this is how we destitute the 
police. “In the absence of a revolutionary party, the true revolutionaries 
are those who fight the police.” One needs to hear all the melancholy 
that’s expressed in this observation by Pierre Peuchmard in 1968. 


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EVERYONE HATES THE POLICE 


While, compared to the police, revolutionaries may currently present 
themselves as weak, unarmed, unorganized, and watch-listed, they have 
the strategic advantage, however, of being nobody’s instrument, of having 
no order to maintain, and of not being a corps. We revolutionaries are 
not bound by any obedience, we are connected to all sorts of comrades, 
friends, forces, milieus, accomplices, and allies. This enables us to bring 
to bear on certain police interventions the threat that an operation to 
enforce order might trigger an unmanageable disorder in return. If since 
the failure of Operation Caesar, no government has dared to try and 
expel the ZAD, it’s not out of a fear of losing the battle militarily, but 
because the reaction of tens of thousands of sympathizers could prove 
to be unmanageable. That a “blunder” in a banlieue sets off weeks of 
widespread riots is too high a price to pay for the Specialized Brigade’s 
license to humiliate. When an intervention by the police causes more 
disorder than what it reestablishes in the way of order, it’s their very 
reason for being that’s in question. So, either they insist and end up 
emerging as a party with its own interests, or they go back into their 
kennel. Either way, they cease being a useful means. They are destituted. 

There is a basic asymmetry between the police and revolutionaries. 
Whereas they take us as the target of their operations, our aims reach far 
beyond them—it’s the general policing of society, it’s very organization, 
that we have in our line of sight. The outrageousness of police 
prerogatives and the incredible expansion of the technological means 
of control delineate a new tactical perspective. A purely public existence 
places revolutionaries before the alternative of a practical impotence or 
an immediate repression. A purely conspiratorial existence does allow 
a greater freedom of action, but makes one politically inoffensive and 
vulnerable to repression. So it’s a matter of combining a capacity for 
mass dissemination and a necessary conspiratorial level. Organizing 
revolutionarily entails a subtle interplay between the visible and the 
invisible, the public and the clandestine, the legal and the illegal. We 
have to accept that our struggle is essentially criminal, since in this world 
everything has become criminalizable. Even the militants who go in aid 
of the migrants have to use clever tricks to evade the surveillance of 
which they are the object, before they can act freely. A revolutionary 
force can be constructed only as a network, a step at a time, by relying 
on sure friendships, by furtively establishing unanticipated ties even 
within the enemy apparatus. This is how the “tanzikiyat” were formed 


71 


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in Syria, as a web of little autonomous pockets of revolutionaries that 
would later become the backbone of popular self-organization. In their 
day, the first French Resistance networks didn’t do things differently. In 
the case of Syria as in the old maquis , by successfully reclaiming urban 
districts and areas of the countryside, by establishing relatively secure 
zones, it became possible to go beyond the stage of discrete, anonymous 
activity on the part of little groups. “Life is in the use, not in the time,” 
as Manouchian put it. 


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FOR THE ONES TO COME 



What within us is anxious to protect the inner chains that bind us, 
What within us so sick that it clings to our conditions of existence, 
precarious though they are, 

What’s so exhausted from troubles, jolts, needs, that on a given day 
tomorrow seems further away than the moon, 

What finds it pleasant to pass the time in hip cafes sipping lattes with 
jungle in the background while surfing on one’s MacBook—the Sunday 
of life alloyed with the end of history, 

Is expecting solutions. 


73 



NOW 


Cities in transition, social and solidarity economy, Sixth Republic, 
alternative municipalism, universal basic income, the film Tomorrow, 
migration into space, a thousand new prisons, expulsion of all foreigners 
from the planet, man-machine fusion. 

Whether they’re engineers, managers, activists, politicians, ecologists, 
actors, or simple hucksters, all those who claim to offer solutions to the 
present disaster are really doing just one thing: imposing their definition 
of the problem on us, hoping to make us forget that they themselves are 
plainly part of the problem. As a friend said, “The solution to the problem 
you see in life is a way of living that makes the problem disappear.” 

We don’t have any program, any solutions to sell. To destitute , in Latin, 
also means to disappoint. All expectations will be disappointed. From our 
singular experience, our encounters, our successes, our failures, we draw 
a clearly partisan perception of the world, which conversation among 
friends refines. Anyone who finds a perception to be correct is adult 
enough to draw the consequences from it, or at least a kind of method. 

However repressed it may be, the question of communism remains 
the heart of our epoch. If only because the rule of its contrary— 
economy—has never been so complete. The delegations from the 
Chinese state who go every year to place flowers on Marx’s tomb in 
London don’t fool anybody. One can avoid the communist question, of 
course. One can get used to stepping over the bodies of the homeless or 
migrants on one’s way to the office every morning. One can follow the 
melting of the polar ice in real time, or the rise of the oceans and the 
panicked pell-mell migrations of animals and humans alike. One can go 
on preparing one’s cancer with every forkful of mashed potatoes that one 
swallows. One can tell oneself that the recovery, or a dose of authority, 
or ecofeminism will eventually fix all this. Continuing in such a manner 
is possible, at the cost of suppressing our feeling that the society we live 
in is intrinsically criminal, and one that doesn’t miss a chance to remind 
us that we belong to its little association of miscreants. Every time we 
come in contact with it—by using any of its devices, consuming the 
least of its commodities, or doing whatever job we do for it—we make 
ourselves its accomplices, we contract a little of the vice on which it is 
based: that of exploiting, wrecking, undermining the very conditions of 
every earthly existence. There’s no longer any place for innocence in this 
world. We only have the choice between two crimes: taking part in it or 
deserting it in order to bring it down. If the stalking of criminals and the 


74 


FOR THE ONES TO COME 


orgy of judgment and punishment are so popular nowadays, it’s because 
they provide a momentary ersatz innocence to the spectators. But since 
the relief doesn’t last, it’s necessary to blame, punish, and accuse over 
and over again—to maintain the illusion. Kafka explained the success of 
the detective story in this way: 

Detective stories are always concerned with the solution of 
mysteries that are hidden behind extraordinary occurrences. But 
in real life its absolutely the opposite. The mystery isn’t hidden 
in the background. On the contrary! It stares one in the face. It’s 
what is obvious. So we do not see it. Everyday life is the greatest 
detective story ever written. Every second, without noticing we 
pass by thousands of corpses and crimes. That’s the routine 
of our lives. But if, in spite of habit, something does succeed 
in surprising us, we have a marvelous sedative in the detective 
story, which presents every mystery of life as a legally punishable 
exception. It is a pillar of society, a starched shirt covering the 
heartless immorality which nevertheless claims to be bourgeois 
civilization. 

So it’s a matter of jumping outside the circle of killers. 

Few questions have been as poorly formulated as the question of 
communism. And that’s not yesterday’s failure; it goes far back to ancient 
times. Open the Book of Psalms and you’ll see. The class struggle dates 
back at least to the prophets of Jewish Antiquity. What is utopian in 
communism is already found in the apocrypha of that age: 

And equal land for all, divided not/By walls or fences, [...] and 
the course/Of life be common and wealth unapportioned./ 

For there no longer will be poor nor rich,/ Tyrant nor slave, 
nor any great nor small,/Nor kings nor leaders; all alike in 
common/ 

The communist question was badly formulated because, to start 
with, it was framed as a social question, that is, as a strictly human question. 
Despite that, it has never ceased to trouble the world. If it continues 
to haunt it, that’s because it doesn’t stem from an ideological fixation 
but from a basic, immemorial, lived experience: that of community — 


75 


NOW 


which nullifies all the axioms of economy and all the fine constructions 
of civilization. There is never community as an entity, but always as 
an experience of continuity between beings and with the world. In love, 
in friendship, we have the experience of that continuity. In my calm 
presence, here, now, in this familiar town, in front of this old sequoia 
sempervirens whose branches are stirred by the wind, I experience that 
continuity. In this riot where we all stick to the plan we’ve decided on, 
where the chants of the comrades give us courage, where a street medic 
delivers aid and comfort to an unknown person with a head injury, I 
experience this continuity. In this print shop dominated by an antique 
Heidelberg 4 Color which a friend ministers to while I prepare the 
pages, another friend glues, and a third one trims, to put together this 
little samizdat that we’ve all conceived, in this fervor and enthusiasm, I 
experience that continuity. There is no myself and the world, myself and 
the others, there is me and my kindred, directly in touch with this little 
piece of the world that I love, irrcducibly. There is ample beauty in the 
fact of being here and nowhere else. It’s not the least sign of the times that 
a German forester, and not a hippy, scores a bestseller by revealing that 
trees “talk to each other,” “love one another,” “look after each other,” 
and are able to “remember” what they’ve gone through. He calls that The 
Hidden Life of Trees. Which is to say, there’s even an anthropologist who 
sincerely wonders how forests think. An anthropologist, not a botanist. By 
considering the human subject in isolation from its world, by detaching 
living beings from all that lives around them, modernity could not help 
but engender a communism destined to eradicate: a socialism. And that 
socialism could only encounter peasants, nomads, and “savages” as an 
obstacle to be shoved aside, as an unpleasant residue at the bottom of 
the national scale of importance. It couldn’t even see the communism 
of which they were the bearers. If modern “communism” was able to 
imagine itself as a universal brotherhood, as a realized equality, this 
was only through a cavalier extrapolation from the lived experience of 
fraternity in combat, of friendship. For what is friendship if not equality 
between friends? 

Without at least the occasional experience of community, we die 
inside, we dry out, become cynical, harsh, desert-like. Life becomes that 
ghost city peopled by smiling mannequins, which functions. Our need 
for community is so pressing that after having ravaged all the existing 
bonds, capitalism is running on nothing but the promise of “community.” 


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What are the social networks, the dating apps, if not that promise 
perpetually disappointed? What are all the modes, all the technologies 
of communication, all the love songs, if not a way to maintain the 
dream of a continuity between beings where in the end every contact 
melts away? Opportunely, this frustrated promise intensifies the need, 
making it hysterical even, and accelerates the great cash machine of 
those who exploit it. Maintaining misery while dangling the possibility 
of escape is capitalisms great stratagem. In 2015, a single website of 
pornographic videos called PornHub was visited for 4,392,486,580 
hours, which amounts to two and a half times the hours spent on Earth 
by Homo sapiens. Even this epochs obsession with sexuality and its hyper- 
indulgence in pornography attests to the need for community, in the 
very extremity of the latter’s deprivation. 

When Milton Friedman says that the market is the magic mechanism 
enabling “millions of individuals to come together on a daily basis 
without any need to love one another or even to speak to one another,” 
he’s describing the end result while carefully redacting the process that 
has brought so many people into the market, the thing that keeps them 
there, which is not just hunger, threat, or the lure of profit. He also 
spares himself from having to admit the devastations of all sorts which 
make it possible to establish something like “a market,” and to present 
it as natural. The same is true when a Marxist pontificates that “disease, 
death, love’s sorrow, and assholes will continue to take their toll after 
capitalism, but there will no longer be any massive paradoxical poverty, 
resulting from an abstract production of wealth. One will no longer see 
an autonomous fetishistic system or a dogmatic social form.” (Robert 
Kurz) In reality, the question of communism is also raised in each of 
our tiny and unique existences in response to what is making us sick. 
In response to what is slowly killing us, to our failures in love, to what 
makes us such strangers to each other that by way of an explanation for 
all the world’s ills, we’re satisfied with the foolish idea that “People are 
assholes.” Refusing to see this amounts to wearing one’s insensitivity like 
a tattoo. It’s well suited to the kind of pale, myopic virility that’s required 
for becoming an economist. 

To this the Marxists, or many of them at least, add a certain cowardice 
in the face of life’s smallest problems, which was also the mark of the 
Bearded One. There are even those who organize symposia around 
the “idea of communism” which seem expressly designed to make sure 


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that communism remains an idea, and doesn’t meddle too much in the 
business of living. Not to mention the conventicles where one presumes 
to decree what is and what isn’t communism. 

With the breakdown of European social democracy faced with 
World War One, Lenin decides to restyle the facade of the crumbling 
old socialism by painting the pretty word “communism” on it. Rather 
comically, he borrows it from anarchists who have already made it their 
banner. This convenient confusion between socialism and communism 
contributed a good deal, in the last century, to making this word 
synonymous with catastrophe, massacre, dictatorship, and genocide. 
Since then, anarchists and Marxists have been playing ping pong around 
the couple individual/society, without being concerned that this false 
antinomy was shaped by economic thought. Rebelling against society on 
behalf of the individual or against individualism on behalf of socialism 
is to head down a dead end street. Society is always a society of individuals. 
Individual and society have not ceased being affirmed, each at the others 
expense, for three centuries, and this is the reliable oscillating mechanism 
which keeps the charming wheel called “economy” turning round, year 
after year. Against what economy wants us to imagine, what there is 
in life are not individuals endowed with all kinds of properties which 
they can make use of or part with. What there is in life are attachments , 
assemblages [agencements], situated beings that move within a whole 
ensemble of ties. By adopting the liberal fiction of the individual, modern 
“communism” was bound to conflate property and attachment, and carry 
the confusion to the very arena where it believed it was attacking private 
property. It was helped in that by a grammar in which property and 
attachment have become indistinguishable. What grammatical difference 
is there when I speak of “my brother” or “my part of town,” and when 
Warren Buffet says “my holding” or “my shares”? None. And yet one is 
speaking of an attachment in the first instance and of an ownership in 
the second, of something that constitutes me in the one case and of an 
object I own in the other. Only by means of this type of confusion did it 
become possible to imagine that a subject like “Humanity” could exist. 
Humanity— that is, all human beings, stripped of what weaves together 
their concrete situated existence, and gathered up phantasmally into one 
great something-or-other, nowhere to be found. By wiping out all the 
attachments that make up the specific texture of worlds, on the pretext 
of abolishing private ownership of the means of production, modern 


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“communism” has effectively made a tabula rasa—of everything. That’s 
what happens to those who practice economy, even by criticizing it. As 
Lyotard reportedly said: “Economy—a thing we needed to find a way out 
of, not criticize!” Communism is not a “superior economic organization 
of society” but the destitution of economy. 

Economy rests on a pair of fictions, therefore, that of society and 
that of the individual. Destituting it involves situating this false antinomy 
and bringing to light that which it means to cover up. What these fictions 
have in common is making us see entities, closed units and their relations, 
whereas what there is in fact are ties. Society presents itself as the superior 
entity that aggregates all the individual entities. Since Hobbes and the 
frontispiece of Leviathan, it’s always the same image: the great body of 
the sovereign, composed of all the minuscule, homogenized, serialized 
bodies of his subjects. The operation which the social fiction depends 
on consists in trampling on everything that forms the situated existence 
of each singular human being, in wiping out the ties that constitute us, 
in denying the assemblages we enter into, and then forcing the depicted 
atoms thus obtained into a completely fictitious, spectral association 
known as the “social bond.” So that to think of oneself as a social being 
is always to apprehend oneself from the exterior, to relate to oneself as an 
abstraction. It’s the peculiar mark of the economic perception of the world 
to grasp nothing except externally. Thatjansenist scumbag, Pierre Nicole, 
who exerted such a large influence on the founders of political economy, 
provided the recipe already in 1671: “However corrupt any society might 
be within, and in the eyes of God, there would be nothing on the outside 
that would be better regulated, more civil, more just, more peaceful, 
more decent, more generous. And the most admirable thing would be 
that, being animated and moved only by self-love, self-love would not 
appear there, and being a thing completely devoid of charity, one would 
only see the form and signs of charity everywhere.” No logical question 
can be raised, let alone resolved, on this basis. Everything becomes a 
question of management. It’s not surprising that societe is synonymous 
with entreprise in France. This was already the case, moreover, in ancient 
Rome. If one started a business, under Tiberius, one started a societas. A 
societas, a society, is always an alliance, a voluntary association that one 
joins or withdraws from according to one’s interests. So all in all it’s a 
relationship, an external “bond,” a “bond” that doesn’t touch anything 
inside us and that one can walk away from without prejudice, a “bond” 


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with no contact—and hence not a bond at all. 

The characteristic texture of any society results from the way 
humans are pulled into it, by the very thing that separates them', self-interest. 
Given that they participate as individuals, as closed entities, and thus 
always provisionally, they come together as separate. Schopenhauer 
offered an arresting image of the consistency peculiar to social relations, 
of their inimitable pleasures and of the “unsociable human sociability”: 
“On a cold winters day, a group of porcupines huddled together to stay 
warm and keep from freezing. But soon they felt one another’s quills and 
moved apart. When the need for warmth brought them together again, 
their quills again forced them apart. They were driven back and forth 
at the mercy of their discomforts until they found the distance from one 
another that provided both a maximum of warmth and a minimum of 
pain. In human beings, the emptiness and monotony of the isolated self 
produces a need for society. This brings people together, but their many 
offensive qualities and intolerable faults drive them apart again. The 
optimal distance that they finally find that permits them to coexist is 
embodied in politeness and good manners.” 

The genius of the economic operation is to conceal the plane on 
which it commits its misdeeds, the one on which it conducts its veritable 
war: the plane of bonds. In this way it confounds its potential adversaries, 
and is able to present itself as totally positive whereas it is quite evidently 
motivated by a fierce appetite for destruction. It has to be said that 
the bonds readily lend themselves to this. What is more immaterial, 
subtle, intangible than a bond? What’s less visible, less opposable but 
more sensitive than a bond that’s been destroyed? The contemporary 
numbing of sensibilities, their systematic fragmentation, is not just the 
result of survival within capitalism, it’s the precondition for survival. 
We don’t suffer from being individuals, we suffer from trying to be that. 
Since the individual entity exists, fictitiously, only from the outside , “being 
an individual” requires remaining outside oneself, strangers to ourselves, 
forgoing any contact with oneself as well as with the world and others. 
Obviously everyone is free to take everything from the outside. One 
only has to keep from feeling, hence from being present, hence from 
living. We prefer the opposite mode—the communist mode. It consists 
in apprehending things and beings from the inside , grasping them by the 
middle. What comes of grasping the individual by the middle or from the 
inside? Nowadays it yields a chaos. An unorganized chaos of forces, bits 


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of experience, scraps of childhood, fragments of meaning, and more 
often than not, without any communication between them. Saying that 
this epoch has produced a human material in very poor condition is 
to say little. It is in great need of repair. We’re all aware of this. The 
fragmentation of the world finds a faithful reflection in the shattered 
mirror of subjectivities. 

That what appears externally as a person is really only a complex of 
heterogeneous forces is not a new idea. The Tzeltal Maya of Chiapas 
have a theory of the person in which everyone’s sentiments, emotions, 
dreams, health, and temperament are governed by the adventures and 
misadventures of a whole host of spirits who reside and move about 
at the same time in our hearts and inside the mountains. We are not a 
fine collection of egoic completenesses, of perfectly unified Selves. We 
are composed of fragments, we teem with minor lives. The word “life” 
in Hebrew is a plural and so is the word “face.” Because in a life there 
are many lives and in a face there are many faces. The ties between 
beings are not formed from entity to entity. Every tie goes from fragment 
of being to fragment of being, from fragment of being to fragment of 
world, and from fragment of world to fragment of world. It is established 
below and beyond the individual scale. It brings into immediate play 
parts of beings that discover themselves to be on the same level, that 
are felt as continuous. This continuity between fragments is what is 
experienced as “community.” An assemblage is produced. It’s what we 
experience in every real encounter. Every encounter carves out a specific 
domain within us where elements of the world, the other, and oneself 
are mingled indistinctly. Love does not bring individuals into relation, 
it cuts through them as if they were suddenly on a special plane where 
they were making their way together amid a certain foliation of the 
world. To love is never to be together but to become together. If loving 
did not undo the fictitious unity of being, the “other” would not be 
capable of making us suffer to such a degree. If, in love, a piece of the 
other did not end up being a part of us, we wouldn’t have to mourn it 
when separation time rolled around. If there were nothing but relations , 
nobody would understand one another. Everything would be awash with 
misunderstanding. So there is no subject or object of love, there is an 
experience of love. 

The fragments that constitute us, the forces inhabiting us, the 
assemblages we enter into don’t have any reason to compose a 


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harmonious whole, a fluid set, a movable articulation. The banal 
experience of life in our time is characterized rather by a succession 
of encounters that undo us little by little, dismember us, gradually 
deprive us of any sure bearings. If communism has to do with the 
fact of organizing ourselves—collectively, materially, politically—this 
is insofar as it also means organizing ourselves singularly, existentially, 
and in terms of our sensibility. Or else we must consent to falling back 
into politics or into economy. If communism has a goal, it is the great 
health of forms of life. This great health is obtained through a patient 
re-articulation of the disjoined members of our being, in touch with 
life. One can live a whole life without experiencing anything, by being 
very careful not to think and feel. Existence is then reduced to a slow 
process of degradation. It wears down and ruins, instead of giving form. 
After the miracle of the encounter, relations can only go from wound to 
wound towards their consumption. Life, on the contrary, gradually gives 
form to whoever refuses to live beside themselves, to whoever allows 
themselves to experience. They become a form of Ife in the full sense of 
the term. 

In sharp contrast to that, there are the inherited methods of activist 
construction, so grossly defective, so exhausting, so destructive, when 
they are so focused on building. Communism does not hinge on self- 
renunciation but on the attention given to the smallest action. It’s a 
question of our plane of perception and hence of our way of doing 
things. A practical matter. What the perception of entities—individual 
or collective— bars our access to is the plane where things really happen, 
where the collective potentials form and fall apart, gain strength or 
dissipate. It’s on that plane and only there that the real, including the 
political real, becomes legible and makes sense. To live communism 
is not to work to ensure the existence of the entity we belong to, but 
to deploy and deepen an ensemble of ties, which sometimes means 
cutting certain ones. What is essential occurs at the level of the smallest 
things. For the communist, the world of important facts extends as far 
as the eye can see. Perception in terms of bonds dismisses the whole 
alternative between individual and collective, and does so positively. 
In a real situation, an “I” that says what needs to be said can be a 
“we” of extraordinary power. And so, the particular happiness of any 
“commune” reflects the plenitude of its singularities, a certain quality 
of ties, the radiant energy of each fragment of world that it harbors— 


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good-bye to entities, to their protrusiveness, good-bye to individual and 
collective confinement, adios to the reign of narcissism. “The one and 
only progress,” wrote the poet Franco Fortini, “consists and will consist 
in reaching a higher level, one that is visible and visionary, where the 
powers and qualities of every singular existence can be promoted.” 
What is to be deserted is not “society,” or “individual life,” but the dyad 
they compose. We must learn to move on a different plane. 

There’s a flagrant disintegration of “society,” certainly, but there’s 
also a move aimed at recomposing it. As often happens, to see what lies 
in store for us we must turn our gaze to the other side of the Channel. 
What the conservative governments of Great Britain have already been 
implementing since 2010 is the so-called “Big Society.” As its name 
doesn’t indicate, the “Great Society” of which it is a question here 
consists in a final dismantling of the last institutions vaguely recalling 
the “welfare state.” What’s curious is the list of priorities that this 
purely neoliberal reform sets out: “give more power to communities’ 
(localism and decentralization), encourage individuals to engage actively 
in their community’ (volunteer work), transfer responsibilities from the 
central government to local authorities, support cooperatives, mutual 
societies, charitable associations and social enterprises,’ publish public 
data (open government).” Liberal society’s maneuver, at the moment 
when it can no longer hide its implosion, is to try and save the particular 
and particularly unappealing nature of the relations that constitute 
it by replicating itself in a proliferation of little societies or collectives. 
Work-based, neighborhood-based collectives, collectives of citizens, 
of activists, of associations, of artists, etc., collectives of every sort are 
the future of the social. There again, one joins as an individual, on 
an egalitarian basis, around an interest, and one is free to leave when 
one chooses. So they share society’s loose and ectoplasmic texture. 
They appear to be simply a blurry reality, but that vagueness is their 
distinguishing trait. On the other hand, the theater troupe, the seminar, the 
rock group, the rugby team, are collective forms. They are assemblages 
composed of multiple heterogeneous elements. They contain humans 
allotted different positions, different tasks, who make up a particular 
configuration, with its distances, its spacings, its rhythm. And they also 
contain all kinds of non-humans—places, equipment and materials, 
rituals, cries, and refrains. This is what makes them forms, specific 
forms. But what characterizes “the collective” as such is precisely that 


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it is formless. Even in its very formalism. The formalism, which claims 
to be a remedy for its absence of form, is only a mask for it or a ruse, 
and generally temporary. It’s enough to apply for membership and be 
accepted in order to belong just like anyone else. The postulated equality 
and horizontality basically make any asserted singularity scandalous or 
meaningless, and enable a diffuse jealousy to set its prevailing mood. 
The average members find an opium there which allows them to forget 
their feelings of inadequacy. The tyranny peculiar to collectives is that 
of an absence of structure. That is why they have a tendency to spread 
everywhere. Thus nowadays when one is really cool, one doesn’t just 
form a “music group,” one establishes a “musicians collective.” Ditto for 
contemporary artists and their “artist collectives.” And since the sphere 
of art so often anticipates what will be generalized as the economic 
condition of everyone, one won’t be surprised to hear a management 
researcher and “specialist in collective activity” note this development: 
“Before, one considered the team as a static entity in which everybody 
had their role and their objective. One spoke then about a production 
team, an intervention team, a decision-making team. Now however, the 
team is an entity in motion because the individuals composing it change 
roles to adapt to their environment, which also is changing. Today the 
team is regarded as a dynamic process.” What salaried employee in one 
of the “innovative professions” still doesn’t know what the “tyranny 
of the absence of structure” means? In this way the perfect fusion of 
exploitation and self-exploitation is brought about. While every business 
is not yet a collective, collectives are now already businesses—businesses 
that for the most part don’t produce anything, anything other than 
themselves. Just as a batch of collectives could very well take over from 
the old society, it is to be feared that socialism will survive only as a 
socialism of collectives, of little groups of people who force themselves 
to “live together,” that is, to be social. Nowhere is “living together” 
talked about more than where everyone basically hates everyone else. A 
journalist recently titled his piece, “Against the Ubcrization of Life, the 
Collectives.” Self-entrepreneurs also need an oasis against the neoliberal 
desert. But the oases are annihilated in their turn: those seeking refuge 
there bring the desert sands in with them. 

The more “society” falls apart the more the attraction of collectives 
will grow. They will project a false escape. This scam works all the better 
as the atomized individual becomes painfully aware of the freakishness 


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and misery of their existence. Collectives are designed to reintegrate 
those whom this world rejects, and who reject it. They may even promise 
a parody of “communism,” which inevitably yields disappointment and 
swells the mass of those disgusted with everything. The false antinomy 
formed by individual and collective together is not hard to unmask, 
however. All the defects which the collective is in the habit of lending 
so generously to the individual—selfishness, narcissism, mythomania, 
pride, jealousy, possessiveness, calculation, the fantasy of omnipotence, 
self-interest, mendacity—are found in worse measure, more caricatured 
and unassailable, in collectives. No individual will ever be as possessive, 
narcissistic, self-centered, full of bad faith, and determined to believe in 
their own nonsense as a collective can be. 

One thinks of those who say “France,” “the proletariat,” “society” 
or “the collective” without blinking an eye. Anyone with a good ear 
can’t help but hear them saying “Me! Me! Me!” underneath those other 
words. In order to construct something collectively powerful, we should 
abandon the idea of “collective” and all the disastrous exteriority to 
oneself and to others that it conveys. Heiner Muller went further: 

“What capitalism offers is aimed at collective groupings but its 
formulated in such a manner that it makes them break apart. 
What communism offers, by contrast, is utter solitude. Capitalism 
never offers solitude but always just a placing in common. 
McDonalds is the absolute offer of collectivity One is seated in the 
same space everywhere in the world; one eats the same shit and 
everybody’s content. Because at McDonald’s they are a collective. 
Even the faces in McDonald’s restaurants resemble each other 
more and more. [...] There’s the cliche about communism as 
collectivization. Not at all. Capitalism is collectivization [...] 
Communism is the abandonment of man to his solitude. In 
front of your mirror communism gives you nothing. That is 
its superiority. The individual is reduced to his own existence. 
Capitalism can always give you something, insofar as it distances 
people from themselves.” (Fautes d’impression ) 


Feeling, hearing, thinking are not politically neutral faculties, nor 
are they fairly distributed among contemporaries. And the spectrum 
of what the latter perceive is variable. Besides, in contemporary social 


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relations one is one’s own troubled introspection. If the whole social 
circus endures it’s because everyone is straining to keep their head 
above water when they should rather assent to going deeply enough into 
themselves to finally touch something solid. During the conflict against 
the loi Travail, the emergence of what became the “cortege de tete,” 
the lead contingent in marches, was the result of a vision. A few hundred 
“young people” saw, as early as the first demonstrations, that the union 
groups were marching like zombies, that they didn’t believe a word of the 
slogans they were mouthing, that their security marshalls were clubbing 
the high-school students, that there was no way to follow that big 
cadaver, and so it was necessary to claim the front of the demonstration 
at all costs. Which is what was done. And done again. And again. Until 
a limit was reached where, with the “cortege de tete” repeating itself, it 
was no longer a gesture in a situation, but a subject mirrored back in 
the media, the alternative media in particular. So it was time to desert 
that desertion, which was congealing and becoming a parody of itself. 
And to keep moving. That being said, for the whole time it was vibrant, 
the “cortege de tete” was the locus from which things became clear, the 
site of a contagion in the ability to see what was going down. From the 
simple fact that there was struggle, that different determinations were 
clashing, that forces were joining, allying, separating, that strategies were 
called into play, and that all this was manifesting in the streets and not 
just on television, there was a situation. The real was returning, something 
was taking place. One could disagree about what was happening, one 
could read it in contradictory ways, but at least there was a legibility 
of the present. As for knowing which readings were correct and which 
mistaken, the course of events would sooner or later decide; and then it 
would no longer be a matter of interpretation. If our perceptions were 
not adjusted, that would be paid for in baton blows. Our errors would 
no longer be a question of “point of view”; they would be measured in 
suture points or swollen body parts. 

Deleuze said of 1968 that it was a “phenomenon of clairvoyance: 
a society suddenly saw what it contained that was intolerable and 
also saw the possibility of something else.” To which Benjamin adds: 
“Clairvoyance is the vision of that which is taking form. [...] Perceiving 
exactly what is taking place is more decisive than knowing the distant 
future in advance.” In ordinary circumstances most people do end up 
seeing, but when it is much too late —when it’s become impossible not to 

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see and, quite often, seeing no longer serves any purpose. This aptitude 
owes nothing to any great body of knowledge, which often serves for 
overlooking what’s essential. Conversely, ignorance can crown the most 
banal insistence on not seeing. Let’s say that social life demands of 
everyone that they not see, or at least act as if they didn’t see anything. 

It makes no sense to share things if one doesn’t begin by communizing 
the ability to see. Without that, living the communist way is like a wild 
dance in utter darkness; one crashes against the others, one gets hurt, one 
inflicts bruises on the body and the soul without meaning to and without 
even knowing exactly who to be angry with. Compounding everyone’s 
capacity for seeing in every domain, composing new perceptions and 
endlessly refining them, resulting in an immediate increase of potential, 
must be the central object of any communist development. Those who 
don’t want to see anything cannot help but produce collective disasters. 
We must become seers, for ourselves as much as for others. 

Seeing means being able to apprehend forms. Contrary to what a bad 
philosophical legacy has taught us, form does not pertain to visible 
appearance but to dynamic principle. The real individuation is not 
that of bodies, but of forms. One only has to reflect on the process of 
ideation to be convinced of this: nothing better illustrates the illusion of 
the stable and individual Self than the belief that “I” have ideas, since 
it is abundantly clear that ideas come to me, even without my knowing 
from where, from neuronal, muscular, and symbolic processes so opaque 
that they pour in naturally while I’m walking, or when I’m falling asleep 
and the boundaries of the Self are giving way. An occurring idea is a 
good example of form: there enters into its realization, in a language 
environment, something that’s infra-individual—an intuition, a splinter 
of experience, a bit of affect— in a constellation with something that’s 
supra-individual. A form is a mobile configuration that holds together, 
in a tense and dynamic unity, heterogeneous elements of the Self and 
the world. “The essence of form,” said the young Lukacs in his idealist 
jargon, “has always resided in the process by which two principles that 
absolutely exclude each other become form without mutually abolishing 
each other. Form is the paradox that has materialized, the reality of lived 
experience, the true life of the impossible. For form is not reconciliation 
but the war of conflicting principles, transposed into eternity.” Form is 
born of the encounter between a situation and a necessity. Once born, it 
affects things far beyond itself. In the conflict of the spring of 2016, one 


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could have seen the birth of a form from a perfectly singular, perfectly 
identifiable point. On the Austerlitz Bridge, a courageous little group 
forced the riot police to pull back. There was a first line of masked 
people sporting gas masks and holding a reinforced banner, other 
masked ones backing them in case of attempted arrests and making up a 
bloc behind the first line, and behind that bunch and on the sides, baton- 
wielding masked folk who whacked on the cops. Once this little form had 
appeared, the video of its exploit circulated on the social media. And 
kept making babies in the weeks that followed, up to the acme of June 
14, 2016 when its offspring could no longer be counted. Because that’s 
how it is with every form, with life even, the real communist question is 
not “how to produce,” but “how to live.” Communism is the centrality of 
the old ethical question, the very one that historical socialism had always 
judged to be “metaphysical,” “premature,” or “petty-bourgeois”—and 
not the question of labor. Communism is a general detotalization, and 
not the socialization of everything. 

For us, therefore, communism is not a finality. There is no “transition” 
towards it. It is transition entirely: it is en chemin, in transit. The different 
ways of living will never cease to chafe and move against each other, to 
clash with and occasionally combat each other. Everything will always 
have to be rethought. There are bound to be the usual Leninists who will 
reject an immanent conception of communism such as this, by citing 
the necessity of a vertical, strategic articulation of the struggle, and an 
instant later we’re sure to hear the lumbering “question of organization.” 
The “question of organization” is still and always the Leviathan. In a 
time when the apparent unity of the Self can no longer mask the chaos 
of forces, attachments, and participations that we are, how could we 
still believe in the fable of organic unity? The myth of “organization” 
owes everything to the depictions of the hierarchy of natural faculties 
that were handed down to us by ancient psychology and Christian 
theology. We are no longer nihilistic enough to think that inside us there 
is something like a stable psychic organ—a will, let’s say—that directs 
our other faculties. This neat invention of the theologians, much more 
political than it appears, had a dual purpose: first, to make man, newly 
provided with a “free will,” into a moral subject and to deliver him over 
in this way to the Last Judgment and the century’s punishments; second, 
based on the theological idea of a God having “freely” created the 
world and essentially standing apart from his action, to institute a formal 

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separation between being and acting. For centuries, this separation, 
which was to mark Western political ideas in a durable way, made 
ethical realities illegible—the plane of forms-of-life being precisely that 
of a nondifferentiation between what one is and what one does. So “the 
question of organization” exists since those Bolsheviks of Late Antiquity, 
the Church Fathers. It was the instrument of legitimation of the Church 
just as it would later be that of the legitimation of the Party. Against this 
opportunistic question, against the postulated existence of the “will,” it’s 
necessary to emphasize that what 4 wants” within us, what inclines us, is 
never the same thing. That it is a simple outcome , crucial at certain moments, 
of the combat waged within and outside us by a tangled network of 
forces, affects, and inclinations, resulting in a temporary assemblage in 
which some force has just as temporarily subdued other forces. That 
the sequence of these assemblages produces a kind of coherence that 
may culminate in a form is a fact. But to always label with the same noun 
something that in a contingent way finds itself in a position to dominate 
or give the decisive impetus, to convince oneself that it’s always a matter 
of the same authority, to convince oneself finally that every form and every 
decision are dependent on a decision organ, is to perform quite a trick, 
but one that’s been repeated all too long. By believing in such an organ 
for such a long time, by stimulating that imaginary muscle over and over 
again, one ends up in a fatal aboulia that seems nowadays to be afflicting 
the late offspring of the Christian Empire that we happen to be. In 
opposition to that, we propose paying careful attention to situations and 
to the forces that inhabit and traverse beings, in conjunction with an art 
of decisive assemblages. 

Faced with capitalist organization, a destituent potential cannot 
confine itself to its own immanence, to all that grows under the ice 
in the absence of sunshine, to all the attempts at local construction, 
to a series of punctual attacks, even if this whole little world were to 
regularly find itself caught up in great turbulent demonstrations. 
And the insurrection will definitely not wait for everyone to become 
insurrectionary. The mistake of the Leninists, Trotskyists, Negriists, 
and other subpoliticians, a telling one fortunately, is to believe that a 
period that sees all the hegemonies lying broken on the ground could 
still tolerate a political hegemony, even a partisan one of the sort that 
Pablo Iglesias or Chantal Mouffe fantasize. What they don’t see is that 
in a time of general horizontality, horizontality itself is the verticality. No 

89 


NOW 


one can expect to organize the autonomy of others any longer. The 
only verticality still possible is that of the situation , which commands all 
of its components because it exceeds them, because the sum of forces 
in presence is greater than each one of them. The only thing capable 
of transversally uniting all the elements deserting this society into a 
historical party is an intelligence of the situation. It is everything that makes 
the situation gradually understandable, everything that tracks the 
movements of the adversary, everything that identifies the usable paths 
and the obstacles—the systematic character of the obstacles. Based on 
that intelligence, an occasional vertical expedient needed to tilt certain 
situations in the desired direction can well be improvised. 

A strategic verticality of this kind can only emerge from a constant, 
generous discussion, undertaken in good faith. In this epoch, the means 
of communication are the forms of organization. It’s our weakness, for 
the means aren’t in our hands, and those who control them are not our 
friends. So there’s no other choice but to deploy an art of conversation 
between worlds that is cruelly deficient, but from which, in contact with 
the situation, the right decision must emanate. Such a discussion can 
gain the center, from the periphery where it is currently contained, only 
through an offensive from the domain of sensibility, on the plane of 
perceptions, and not of discourse. We’re talking about addressing bodies 
and not just the head. 


“Communism is the material process that aims to 
render sensible and intelligible the materiality of the 
things that are said to be spiritual. To the point that 
we’re able to read in the book of our own body all that 
humans did and were, under the sovereignty of time— 
and to decipher the traces of humanity’s passage upon 
an Earth that will preserve no trace.” (Franco Fortini)